Catholic Church leaders in three archdioceses in the Philippines condemned what they described as “a murderous and corrupt public order” in the country.
In a pastoral statement, the archbishops of Nueva Segovia, Lingayen-Dagupan, and Tuguegarao in the northern Philippines urged the faithful to “resist” the current “culture of murder and plunder.”
“We have a moral duty to resist and correct a culture of murder and plunder as much as the prolonged pattern of hiding or destroying the truth,” read the prelates’ statement.
The statement, which was released on Sept. 12, was signed by Archbishops Marlo Peralta of Nueva Segovia, Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, and Ricardo Baccay of Tuguegarao.
The church leaders lamented the spate of drug-related killings in the country, the attacks on journalists, members of the political opposition, lawyers, activists, and even priests.
“Since the past five years, more than thirty thousand poor Filipinos have been killed in the campaign against illegal drugs,” read the bishops’ statement.
“Journalists have been killed, political opponents have been murdered, court judges have been assassinated, priests have been shot and critics have been bullied and threatened,” it added.
“The killers are at large and the blind supporters of these murderers applaud the killers,” said the prelates.
“How may we describe the present social condition of our nation?” they asked.
“It is like living in the valley of death—killing of drug users and opponents; helpless death in the pandemic, death by governance without vision, death by shameless corruption that seems to break all records,” they said.
The Church leaders, however, called for “non-violent” actions, saying that it is “the only morally acceptable resistance.”
“Non-violent resistance, such as peaceful assemblies of dissent or sober discussions of social issues guided by the Gospel or rallies for honesty and heroism, is the path we must choose always,” they said.
They also lamented the inadequate response of the government to the coronavirus pandemic, which has already killed more than 34,000 people in the Philippines.
“The poor are slowly dying from joblessness due to ridiculous confusing quarantine classifications. Incompetence kills peoples. Ineptitude kills nations and economies. Hunger kills slowly,” said the bishops.
“Bullets kill. Viruses kill. Governance without direction kills. Corruption kills. Trolls kill with fake news. Hunger kills,” they added.
“When will the killings stop? The poor pay for the corruption of the powerful. The nation is sinking in debt,” read the bishops’ statement.
The Church leaders called for a “full investigation” into reports of corruption in the use of government funds intended for pandemic response.
They also called for “free elections” scheduled next year, saying that it will “allow the selection and change of representatives” and is “the most effective way to make political authority accountable.”
“This is not the time for despair but courage,” said the bishops. “This is not the time to be quiet but to stand up for God. Against the tide of murders and plunder, let us bear witness to truth and life.”