By Genalyn D. Kabiling, Hannah L. Torregoza and Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos
The government is pushing for the “true healing” of the country long split by politics and saddled with illegal drugs, crime, and corruption.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said the Duterte administration is seeking national unity, including a better rapport between the government and the Catholic Church while respecting the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ (CBCP) planned healing mass against the alleged extrajudicial killings in the country.
“We are one in the true healing of this nation that has long been divided by politics,” Roque said in a statement.
“We must come together as one country and one people and help the government in building a nation free from drugs, criminality, and corruption,” he said.
Roque said the administration wishes “to build better rapport with the Catholic Church and seek the cooperation of its leaders.”
The government also calls on the Catholic flock to “proactively” help the government in combating the drug menace, particularly in the rehabilitation and treatment of drug dependents, according to Roque.
The “Lord Heal Our Land” mass, initiated by CBCP President and Dagupan-Lingayen Archbishop Socrates Villegas, was scheduled at the EDSA Shrine at 3 p.m. Sunday, followed by a procession to the 1986 People Power monument.
The prayer gathering seeks to put an end to the suspected summary killings linked to the government’s brutal war on illegal drugs. The activity will kick off the 33-day prayer and action for national healing and will culminate on December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Concepcion.
The Palace, however, is not bothered about the latest Church-led activities.
“The President has repeatedly mentioned that he allows constructive dissent and that he would even give protesters the democratic space and time to enjoy the rights to peacefully assemble, seek redress, and air their grievances,” Roque said.
He reiterated however that the administration “does not, and will never condone extrajudicial and vigilante killings” and will bring to justice those behind any murder.
As of September, Roque said at least 2, 243 incidents with drug-related motives are under investigation.
“The President himself made a clear stance that any violation committed by the police during operations would be dealt with accordingly. Accountability is essential to good governance,” he said.
Opposition senators on Sunday echoed the call of organizers of the “Lord Heal Our Land” mass and procession at the EDSA Shrine for a stop to the extra-judicial killings so that healing can now start for the thousands of victims of the Duterte administration’s brutal war on drugs.
Detained Senator Leila de Lima said she believes that the only way the country can start the healing process is if all Filipinos would finally realize the cause of the wounds, which is none other than Duterte’s war on drugs.
“Makakamtan lang din ang tuluyang paghilom sa pagkakaroon ng hustisya (One can only experience healing if there is justice),” she said.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros, likewise, said the country cannot just move on from social atrocities if justice for those who were slain in the drug war is not served.
EJKs, human rights violations
Malacañang said that there has to be proof to back up claims of extrajudicial or extralegal killings (EJKs, ELKs) and human rights violations in the country.
Roque acknowledged the existence of cases of EJKs, ELKs, and human rights violations, but said there has to be proof.
He also said that, despite the court’s narrow definition of EJK, the Philippine National Police (PNP) is not the one to define the term after the police organization claimed that EJKs do not exist in the country.
“Hindi naman po PNP nagde-definition niyan, ang korte natin po nagbigay ng definition niyan. Bagama’t napaka-narrow ng definition na ‘yan, iyong pagpatay ng aktibista at pagpatay ng mga mamamahayag (The PNP is not the one giving its definition, it’s our Court despite the narrow definition limiting EJKs to the killings of activists and journalists),” he said in an interview over DWIZ.
Roque also said that the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) should consider seeking a higher budget next year to recruit and train more agents in the government’s war on illegal drugs.
“Asahan natin na sa susunod na taon siguro ay mas malaking budget ang hihingin ng PDEA [Let’s expect that the PDEA will request for a bigger budget next year],” Roque said in a radio interview.
“Tama lang naman ‘no dahil mas mabuting ilagay natin sa mga taong may sapat na kakayahan itong napakaimportante’t sensitibong misyon na giyera laban sa droga [That’s just right because it is better to deploy people who have efficient training in implementing the most important and sensitive mission in the fight against drugs],” he added.
Tags: administration, Catholic Church, Duterte administration, extrajudicial killings, Harry Roque, healing mass, human rights violations, illegal drugs, Lord Heal Our Land, Manila Bulletin, war on drugs