Defend our Life, Protect our Dignity! Stop the Killings! [TFDP Statement]


    “Woe to those who enact unjust statutes and who write oppressive decrees, depriving the poor of justice, robbing the weakest of my people of their rights.” (Isaiah 10:1)

    Defend our Life, Protect our Dignity! Stop the Killings!

    “Woe to those who enact unjust statutes and who write oppressive decrees, depriving the poor of justice, robbing the weakest of my people of their rights.” (Isaiah 10:1)

    Inspired by the teachings of the Catholic Church pastoral exhortation to build a society more human, more worthy of the human person, the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP) is disturbed by and condemn the spate of killings amid President Rody Duterte’s intensified crackdown on illegal drugs and criminality.

    The surge in the killings of suspected criminals since June 30, 2016 is alarming. Most of those killed were identified by the police as suspected drug dealers or pushers (“tulak”). As of August 8, 2016, based on the report of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the list of victims are 564 dead. Government statistics also support assertions of an alarming increase in police killings of drug-related criminal suspects. Philippine National Police (PNP) data according to news report indicate that police killed at least 239 drug suspects were killed in the three weeks after Duterte’s inauguration.

    The government’s campaign against illegal drugs and criminality has social and political implications, and its moral dimension must be based on the framework of upholding human dignity and protecting human rights.

    We believe that it is indeed part of government’s obligations to protect its citizens against criminality that could endanger life and human security. However we are alarmed that the killings of suspected drug dealers violate constitutionally guaranteed rights as stipulated in Article 3, Bill of Rights, Section 1 of the Constitution that “(n)o person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.”

    We are deeply troubled that this campaign against drugs and criminality violates the right to due process of suspects. And we fear the crackdown has promoted vigilantism and encouraged summary executions.

    We feel that instead of building community and strengthening the principle of solidarity the government’s campaign against illegal drugs and criminality anchored on the culture of death will only exacerbate the already deteriorating state of human rights in the country, feed the continued existence of a coercive environment and growing culture of impunity.

    We urge the government to promote and implement effective criminal justice responses to drug-related crimes, as reiterated by the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) in its statement that drug-related killings are unacceptable drug control measures. We urge the government to bring perpetrators to justice that ensure legal guarantees and due process safeguards pertaining to criminal justice proceedings, and to eliminate impunity, in accordance with the Constitution and applicable international laws, and taking into account the United Nations standards such as Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) on the inherent right to life which prohibits an arbitrary taking of life.

    As religious and as members of the lay faithful we must work for the common good by participating directly in social, economic, and political affairs so as to transform society into one wherein the dignity of the human person is respected, protected, and fulfilled. And as such it is our moral obligation to take a firm but enlightened stand against the blatant disrespect for the sanctity of human life and the rule of law that these killings represent.

    In the words of our Church leaders “when human authority goes beyond the limits willed by God, it makes itself a deity and demands absolute submission; it becomes the Beast of the Apocalypse, an image of the power of the imperial persecutor.” We must never allow this to happen. Peace and justice must prevail.

    We ask that an independent fact-finding body be formed to investigate these killings and bring the perpetrators to justice.

    We embrace the cry and call of the vulnerable by asserting that the killings will worsen a culture of death and human rights violations. It is from their side, it is from their bosom that we cry out to the heavens and say:

    Denounce the culture of death!
    Ensure justice for all victims of summary executions and human rights violations!
    Defend our life! Protect our dignity!

    Task Force Detainees of the Philippines
    Board of Trustees 2015-2017

    Chairperson: Sr. Crescencia L. Lucero, SFIC
    Treasurer: Sr. Ma. Luz F. Mijares, OSA
    Secretary: Mr. Jerbert M. Briola, Luzon Island Representative

    Fr. Christian B. Buenafe, O’Carm (also serve as AMRSP Liaison- Men)
    Engr. Bibiano C. Rivera, Jr.
    Atty. Ricardo A. Sunga III
    Prof. Thomas Lyndon Blanco, Visayas Island Representative
    Sr. Cecilia Bayona, AMP, AMRSP Liaison – Women

    August 13, 2016

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