Protests turn into ‘prayer for healing’
THERE is no widespread condemnation of President Rodrigo Duterte’s deadly drug war, Malacañang claimed Monday despite the mass actions aimed at calling for an end to the killings that have claimed thousands of lives since the Duterte administration took office.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque described the protest rallies organized by the Catholic bishops on Sunday as a simple “religious activity” rather than an attempt to send out a political message.
“It wasn’t a rally. It was a prayer for healing, so I take the organizers’ words literally,” Roque told reporters.
He made his statement even as Senator Bam Aquino on Monday welcomed the Catholic Church’s initiative to spearhead the call for a stop to the drug war killings, saying it was the first and most important step in achieving much-needed healing in the country.
“We are happy with the call of the Church to the public to join the call to stop the killings,” Aquino said after the “Lord Heal Our Land Sunday” Holy Mass at the Edsa Shrine.
“As Christians and Filipinos, we’re agreed with the call of the Church to stop the killings and start the healing of the nation.”
Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines on Monday appealed to the military and the police to stop the violence and drug-related killings and instead follow the rule of law.
CBCP president and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said both institutions must aim at justice rather than revenge in the battle against crime and lawlessness.
“Choose to be requested rather than feared,” Villegas said during the “Lord Heal Our Land Sunday” Mass.
“If you have stumbled and waltzed with graft, rise up men and women in uniform. Demand ethical leadership from your officers. Choose integrity not the quick fix,” Villegas said.
Roque claimed that many people remained supportive of the administration’s drug war, saying it had been “effective” in putting order in their communities.
“What I do know is that the people are supportive of the drug war because, for the first time, their communities are actually safer. The kids can walk home at night without fear of being accosted by some drug-crazed individuals,” Roque said.
Roque also said the Palace was joining the bishops’ call for the “true healing” of the nation, which had long been divided by politics.
The Catholic Church, which counts 80 percent of the Filipinos as followers, has been one of the leading critics of the war on drugs and has launched campaigns to stop the killings, including one starting on Sunday dubbed “Heal Our Land.”
The church organized a Mass and procession along Edsa.
About 3,000 people―including opposition lawmakers, students and church groups―joined the event, according to police. They carried candles and placards reading “Stop the Killings. Start the Healing.” With Macon Ramos-Araneta and Vito Barcelo
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