THE head of the Philippines’ powerful Catholic Church called Sunday for an end to the “waste of human lives” following a brutal week in President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war in which a 17-year-old boy was among dozens killed.
The call comes after the deadliest week yet in the anti-drug campaign that saw over 90 people killed over the last seven days.
According to AFP (via Japan Times) the highest-ranking church official in the predominantly Catholic nation expressed concern about the increase in the number of deaths.
“We knock on the consciences of those who kill even the helpless, especially those who cover their faces with bonnets, to stop wasting human lives,” Manila Cardinal Luis Tagle said in a statement read in Sunday Masses in the capital.
“The illegal drug problem should not be reduced to a political or criminal issue. It is a humanitarian concern that affects all of us.”
Duterte’s aggressive and deadly approach to curbing the drug epidemic in the Philippines has reportedly resulted in the death of over 12,500 people, many of whom are small-time drug users and dealers, but bystanders have often been caught up in the cross-fire. Police say about 3,500 of those killed were shot by officers in self-defence, the others are attributed to vigilante gangs.
The church is one of the most influential institutions in a country in which 86 percent of the population are Roman Catholic. They have been one of the few critical voices of Duterte’s campaign despite continued popularity among the voters.
That popularity may be beginning to wane, however, as the deadliest week on record has raised questions among some of Duterte’s staunchest supporters.
The death of 17-year-old high school student, Kian Loyd Delos Santos, prompted public anger after television channels aired CCTV footage that showed the student being carried by two men to a place where his body was later found, raising doubt about an official report that said he was shot because he fired at police.
Some civil society groups and left-wing activists have called for protests increasing anger with the police was evident in social media posts.
Metro Manila police chief Oscar Albayalde said he has suspended the police chief in Caloocan City, where the boy was killed, pending an investigation. Three officers involved in the operation were earlier relieved of duties.
The justice department has also begun an investigation while senators will also summon police this week to explain the sudden rise in killings.
Additional reporting by Reuters