Philippines drug killings divide once powerful Catholic church

Philippines drug killings are dividing its once-powerful Catholic church.

Some priests say challenging the thousands of killings in President Duterte’s campaign could be dangerous.

Others support it.

More than 3,600 people have died at the hands of police and suspected vigilantes since Duterte took power in June.

Most were small-time drug users and dealers.

Duterte has quashed opposition to his war on drugs.

He had a 76 per cent satisfaction rating in a Social Weather Stations survey released last week.

In another Social Weather Stations poll, 84 per cent said they were satisfied or somewhat satisfied with the war on the drugs.

Despite this, a majority said they had qualms about the killings.

Opposing the drug war “in some locations becomes a dangerous job”, said Father Luciano Felloni.

He is setting up community-based rehabilitation for drug users.

“There is a lot of fear because the way people have been killed is vigilante-style so anyone could become a target … There is no way of protecting yourself.”

Possible reprisals to anyone who criticises Duterte’s campaign could suffer a similar fate, he said.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the Church was free to make statements.

He said there is no cause “to even imply” that anyone in the clergy would be targeted.

“The Church … would do well to take heed and not presume that the people share their  belief system.”

“Are the means unnecessarily illegitimate?” said Father Joel Tabora, a Jesuit priest in Davao, where Duterte was mayor for 22 years.

Activists say about 1,400 people were killed from 1998 until the end of last year in  Davao in a similar anti-crime and anti-drug campaign.

“People are dying, yes, but on the other hand, millions of people are being helped.”



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