Diocese of Marbel sounds alarm over spate of drug-related killings

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 28 Nov) – The widows of some of those killed in the government’s deadly war on drugs have knocked on the doors of the Diocese of Marbel for spiritual and moral support, a religious leader said.

Father Ariel Destora, director of the diocese’s Social Action Center (SAC), said the local Catholic Church was alarmed by the spate of killings in its territory either by unidentified motorcycle-riding gunmen or in legitimate police operations.

“I and several other priests have personally heard the despair of the widows of those killed [in connection with the drug war]. The diocese will help them once we verified their cases,” he told MindaNews.

Destora said the SAC has sought the help of the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) following the rash of drug- and even non-drug related killings in the diocese.

In one village alone in this city, which is the capital of South Cotabato province and the seat of government of Region 12, over a dozen individuals have been killed since President Rodrigo Duterte ordered an all-out war after assuming power in 2016.

Supt. Aldrin Gonzales, spokesperson of the Police Regional Office-12, said that 148 individuals were killed during police operations across the region from December 5 last year to November 19.

They were killed for “fighting” the raiding teams, claimed Gonzales, adding that 1,888 others have been arrested in the same period.

In South Cotabato, 26 died during police raids, 11 in Sarangani, 43 in Sultan Kudarat, and 16 in General Santos City during the same period, police data showed.

The Diocese of Marbel includes the entire provinces of South Cotabato and Sarangani and parts of Sultan Kudarat, and the cities of General Santos and Koronadal.

Marbel Bishop Cerilo Casicas has condemned the extra judicial killings and instructed the SAC to help the families of the victims, according to Destora.

During their annual presbyterium meeting, the clergy tackled the spate of drug-related killings in the diocese, which they believed is a violation of human rights.

As a result of the meeting, the SAC sought the help of TFDP, which advocates human rights protection, also to intensify the diocese’s human rights awareness campaign, Destora said.

“We want to arm our parishioners with knowledge on human rights, especially during these trying times” Destora said.

On November 30 to December 2, the diocese and TFDP are slated to gather the priests and parishioners in the different vicariates to enhance their knowledge on human rights and to teach them in documenting human rights cases, he said.

The diocese will also take part during Human Rights Day on December 10, the 70th year since the United Nations General Assembly adopted in 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)