DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 05 February) — The trading of illegal drugs must be stopped and overcome but the solution does not lie in the killing of suspected drug users and pushers because “we cannot correct a wrong by doing another wrong,” the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said in pastoral letter intended to be read in all masses last Sunday.
“Any action that harms another (seriously) is a grave sin. To push drugs is a grave sin as is killing (except in self-defense). We cannot correct a wrong by doing another wrong. A good purpose is not a justification for using evil means. It is good to remove the drug problem, but to kill in order to achieve this is also wrong,” the CBCP said in its pastoral statement signed by CBCP President Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan at the end of their three-day 114th Plenary Assembly at the Pope Pius Center in Manila.
The Assembly’s theme was “The Church at the Crossroads.”
“To consent and to keep silent in front of evil is to be an accomplice to it. If we neglect the drug addicts and pushers we have become part of the drug problem. If we consent or allow the killing of suspected drug addicts, we shall also be responsible for their deaths,” the CBCP said in its first collective statement against drugs-related killings.
At least 7,000 suspected drug pushers and users have been killed since President Duterte took his oath of office on June 30, 2016, at least 2,500 of them in police operations.
The CBCP called on the public to “work together to solve the drug problem and work for the rehabilitation of drug addicts.”
“To destroy one’s own life and the life of another, is a grave sin and does evil to society. The use of drugs is a sign that a person no longer values his own life, and endangers the lives of others. We must all work together to solve the drug problem and work for the rehabilitation of drug addicts.
The CBCP, which has 86 ecclesiastical territories (dioceses, archdioceses, vicariates, military ordinariate) said the situation of the families of those who are killed, most of them poor, is a cause for concern as “their lives have only become worse” but an additional cause of concern is “the reign of terror in many places of the poor.”
“Many are killed not because of drugs. Those who kill them are not brought to account. An even greater cause of concern is the indifference of many to this kind of wrong. It is considered as normal, and, even worse, something that (according to them) needs to be done,” the CBCP said.
Amid criticisms from President Duterte himself, the CBCP said they will “continue to speak against evil even as we acknowledge and repent of our own shortcomings” and will do so “even if it will bring persecution upon us.”
“We will help drug addicts so that they may be healed and start a new life. We will stand in solidarity and care for those left behind by those who have been killed and for the victims of drug addicts. Let us renew our efforts to strengthen families,” the CBCP added.
It called on Church leaders to strive harder to help uplift the poor through livelihood, education and health programs. “Above all we will live up to — we all will live up to — becoming a Church of the Poor,” it said.
“Let us not allow fear to reign and keep us silent. Let us put into practice not only our native inner strength but the strength that comes from our Christian faith,” it said in the pastoral letter
The CBCP said they are ” one with many of our countrymen who want change” but added that change “must be guided by truth and justice.”
It listed seven basic teachings (see CBCP Pastoral letter) rooted in “our being human, our being Filipino, and our being Christian”: the life of every person comes from God; the opportunity to change is never lost in every person; to destroy one’s own life and the life of another, is a grave sin and does evil to society; every person has right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty; any action that harms another (seriously) is a grave sin; the deep root of the drug problem and criminality is the poverty of the majority, the destruction of the family and corruption in society; and to consent and to keep silent in front of evil is to be an accomplice to it.
“If we neglect the drug addicts and pushers we have become part of the drug problem. If we consent or allow the killing of suspected drug addicts, we shall also be responsible for their deaths,” the CBCP said.
Asked to comment on the CBCP’s pastoral letter, President Duterte told reporters in Cagayan de Oro Sunday night: “Kayong mga Katoliko, magpapaniwala kayo diyan sa mga pari pati Obispo, doon kayo. Kung gusto ninyo magpunta ng langit doon kayo. Kayo ‘yung gusto nang matapos ang droga pero magpunta ako sa impiyerno, sumabay kayo sa akin” (You Catholics, if you believe in your priests and bishops, go ahead. If you want to go to heaven, be with them. You who want to end this drugs problem but will go to hell, join me). (MindaNews)