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Duterte coy on what he is covering up

MANILA (SE): As social pressure mounts against the wholesale slaughter being perpetrated in The Philippines by the president, Rodrigo Duterte, he is becoming increasingly coy on the real reason for his massive blood-letting campaign and more determined not to engage with the public in any discussion on the matter.

The Ecumenical Bishops’ Forum has called for an in depth analysis of the campaign and an investigation into what the president is covering up.

Priests in Mindanao report that the usual round of kidnappings, both political and for ransom, are still taking place, with the normal murders of indigenous leaders fighting for ownership of ancestral land as rampant as ever, but with the drug-related slaughter it is impossible to get the authorities interested in them.

An important spin off for the president is that the dirty washing of his much publicised peace initiative is being covered up by the distraction the drug-related murders are creating.

The Bishops’ Forum also maintains that despite the litres of blood spilled, the drug industry is thriving and the nation needs to know who is benefiting from it.

Bishop Broderick Pabillo put out a call to Duterte to stop using his dirty tricks to smear reputations, especially through his character assassinations of people involved in the senate inquiry into the unfolding genocide.

In response to criticism from the United Nations, Duterte said on television that if the august body did not stop sticking its nose into his affairs, he would withdraw The Philippines from its membership.

Police and human rights groups now estimate some 1,000 people accused of drug involvement have been killed since the president launched what he calls his anti-drug drive.

Concern is also spreading among the general population, as shrines to the victims of the presidential purge are mushrooming outside churches in Manila with many people stopping to light a candle for their intentions and those of their families.

In a nationally televised address in June, Duterte offered a bounty of five million pesos ($837,967) to anybody who killed a drug lord.

“If you kill a drug lord you will receive five million pesos. If a drug lord is arrested alive, the informant receives just 4,999,000 pesos ($837,799),” he said.

UCAN reported Bishop Pabillo as saying the authorities should be alarmed and ashamed, because killers are at large “mocking our law enforcement system and our justice system.”

The auxiliary bishop of Manila says that he believes they should “hunt down these killers who are inspired by the government itself to (take) the law in their own hands.”

An August 18 report in the Inquirer quoted the chief director of the Philippine National Police, Ronald dela Rosa, as pegging the total number of murders in legitimate operations at 665, but he told a senate hearing that the number of deaths under investigation from July 1 to August 15 stands at 899.

But Bishop Pabillo is standing firm, saying, “This culture of killing must be stopped by the government that has the obligation to provide equal protection under the law to everyone, guilty or not guilty of a crime.”

On August 11, CBCP News reported Bishop Arturo Bastes as saying that while drug addiction must be stopped, random killing on suspicion is not the way to do it.

He called for a more concentrated effort on poverty alleviation to end the drug trade, as it is poverty that turns many people towards peddling drugs just to survive.

The Philippine Misereor Partnership Incorporated reported that mothers have even been killed in front of their children in public.

In a statement posted on August 16, the group says, “The saddening fact is that the killings also include innocent civilians whose families claim they were never involved in drugs.”

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