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Archbishop uses pulpits to slam Duterte’s Philippines crime crackdown

Bangkok: The Catholic Church has warned the Philippines is becoming a nation of murderers as President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the hunting down of 158 officials he alleges are involved in the drugs trade, including judges, police, soldiers and politicians.
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“In our dream to wipe out drug addiction, are we not becoming a killing fields nation?” Archbishop Socrates Villegas said on Sunday in the church’s strongest condemnation yet of Mr Duterte’s anti-crime campaign.

“The humanity in me cries each time I see a parent and child grieve over loved ones killed on the sidewalk or thrown in grassy areas, hogtied or masked with tape,” the archbishop said in a statement read in churches across the predominantly Catholic nation.

“The humanity in me grieves for fellow humans who do not mind killing criminals in the belief that their murders will lesson evil in the world.”

Archbishop Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said he is in “utter disbelief” over Mr Duterte’s campaign that has so far left more than 600 alleged drug pushers dead, many of them by unknown assailants or vigilante groups.

The archbishop questioned a widespread indifference towards the killings, where many victims are left with cardboard signs accusing them of being pushers.

“If drugs indeed kill, will killing the suspects remove the menace? Are we providing our children a safe haven, by teaching them by our tolerance of murders, that killing suspected criminals without fair hearing is a morally acceptable way to eradicate crime?” the archbishop said. “From a generation of drug addicts shall we become a generation of street murderers?”

Only hours after Archbishop Villegas issued his statement, Mr Duterte told reporters he feels “sorry” for his country of 100 million people because there are an estimated 600,000 drug addicts, pushers and users nationwide.

He named 158 officials he accuses of being involved in the drugs trade, ordering that they all be immediately stripped of their authority and to surrender within 24 hours or be shot on sight.

Earlier he referred to those on the list as “dogs” who deserved be shot down.

“I will order the entire armed forces of the Philippines to hunt for you,” he said, referring to the accused. “Go out to the naked world and sow your foolishness.”

No public evidence has been presented against those named.

Earlier two elected local officials wept before Mr Duterte and pleaded to be taken off the list.

The 71-year-old president said he took sole responsibility for the naming of the suspects, who included at least seven judges, 52 incumbent and former mayors, 95 police and military officers and three national MPs.

In the first four days of August alone 64 alleged drug suspects were gunned down without any evidence being presented against them, with 34 shootings involving the police and 30 involving unknown assailants, according to police statistics.

Mr Duterte, who was swept into office at May elections after promising to eliminate the illegal drugs trade within six months, claims that as president he has immunity from prosecution and said no police or soldiers should be investigated over killings.

The former mayor of the southern city of Davao has ignored calls from the United Nations and human rights groups to immediately stop the killings.

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