Monday, March 6, 2017

Winning the drug war through social justice. - Archdiocesan Commission on Social Advocacies of the Archdiocese of Cebu. | Inquirer Opinion

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Our Christian faith has time and again taught us to condemn the sin, but never the sinner. To condemn sinners without even giving them the hope for conversion, renewal and the promise of God’s unconditional mercy runs counter to Christ’s example of mercy and compassion. More so, to mercilessly kill sinners, especially the helpless poor, in the obviously confused pretext of eradicating the sin; this is strongly condemnable, yet this characterizes the deplorable condition of Philippine society.

Thousands have been killed in the Duterte administration’s ongoing antidrug campaign—more than 2,500 in legitimate antidrug operations since July 1, 2016. More horrifying are the more than 4,000 killings, reportedly by vigilantes and drug syndicates, which the police say are “under investigation.” A careful look at the socioeconomic background of the victims will reveal the antipoor character of the drug war. Most of them are petty criminals, not to mention the innocent children deemed as collateral damages.

From Amnesty International’s exposé, one can further see the gravity of evil at work even among law enforcers—police officers getting paid from P8,000 to P15,000 per suspect killed in antidrug operations. Our supposedly trusted officials in the bureaucracy are abetting a mercenary culture within the police ranks. This must be strongly condemned for this mercenary culture favors monetary incentives over moral judgments, death over the affirmation of life and hope. Consequently, it will cloud reasoned judgment and turn police operations into an indiscriminate orgy of mercenaries lusting for monetary rewards.

This culture must be condemned by the police officers themselves as it is a predatory culture operative only through the exploitation of their dire economic conditions and eagerness to raise their living conditions. They must resolutely decry this culture lest they turn into hypocrites claiming to serve and protect the community while doing otherwise.

The Archdiocesan Commission on Social Advocacies (Cosa) strongly denounces this state-sponsored killings which have failed to provide substantial remedies to our country’s drug problem. The government must abandon the militarist strategy and instead engage the problem with a wholistic, democratic and people-centered approach.

Cosa also strongly believes that while the socioeconomic roots of illegal drug business continue to proliferate, and the decadent culture of escapism lingers, the drug menace will go on wreaking havoc despite a heightened militarist approach. The socioeconomic conditions characterized by urban and rural poverty, contractual work, low wages, commercialized education, and inaccessible social services make Filipinos, especially the youth, more vulnerable to the illegal drug trade.

Drug business preys on the vulnerabilities of the poor. So it is only doing justice to the poor if the illegal drug trade is eradicated by effectively addressing the socioeconomic problems of Philippine society in general.

As the second item of the substantive agenda of the peace talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front aims at eradicating the socioeconomic maladies that have long enslaved poor Filipinos, there is a direct connection between the success of the peace talks and the eradication of the drug menace. Cosa, along with all peace-loving Filipinos, therefore, strongly urges the Duterte administration to resume the peace talks to pave the way for a better future for the Filipino people, especially the youth.

Cosa will continue to speak against the killings. In standing firm to its commitment for life, justice and peace, Cosa, in the near future, will convene with other cause-oriented groups in order to make a collective advocacy against the rampant killings, support the families of the victims, and help organize anti-drug campaigns. Cosa is certain that the fullness of life can only be realized through peace based on social justice.

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Fr. Nazario “Ace” Vocales is vicar/executive director of the Archdiocesan Commission on Social Advocacies of the Archdiocese of Cebu."

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