Philippine bishops seek forgiveness for silence on concerns about Duterte

Catholic Archbishop of Davao, and president of Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Romulo Valles (C) with fellow bishops Pablo Virgilio David (L) of the archdiocese of Manila, and Antonio Ledesma of the archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro (R) at a press conference in Manila on Jan. 28, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 29 January 2019
0

Philippine bishops seek forgiveness for silence on concerns about Duterte

  • The church is highly influential and an important source of moral guidance in the Philippines
  • It is known for speaking out in times of crisis and to rebuff doctrinal challenges

MANILA: In a rare move, the largest group of Catholic bishops in the Philippines has sought forgiveness for its lengthy silence over “disturbing issues,” such as the president’s bloody war on drugs and his attacks on the church and its doctrines.
The church is highly influential and an important source of moral guidance in the Philippines, where about 80 percent of a population of 105 million are Roman Catholic.
Although known for speaking out in times of crisis and to rebuff doctrinal challenges, the bishops’ silence over President Rodrigo Duterte’s lambasting of the church and God, as well as his bloody crackdown on drugs, have raised questions about their unity and commitment to values.
“Forgive us for the length of time that it took us to find our collective voice,” the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said in a pastoral letter, issued late on Monday.
“We too needed to be guided properly in prayer and discernment before we could guide you.”
In the letter headlined, “Conquering Evil with Good,” the bishops admitted silence over “disturbing issues about which you may have felt you urgently needed our spiritual and pastoral guidance.”
It was not immediately clear why the CBCP issued the letter, which followed a plenary assembly.
It opposed efforts led by Duterte’s allies to lower the age of criminal liability for children, and said it had seen a “culture of violence has gradually prevailed in our land,” referring also to a deadly church bombing on Sunday.
The popular Duterte’s tirades against the Catholic church are now famous. A self-confessed victim of sexual abuse by a priest, Duterte has called God “stupid,” characterised as “silly” the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and accused bishops of concealing their homosexuality.
The bishops said they understood the need to fight crime and drugs, but were concerned “when we started hearing of mostly poor people being brutally murdered on mere suspicion of being small-time drug users and peddlers,” while bigger players were left alone.
Police say they have killed more than 5,000 people, all in self-defense, while trying to arrest drug dealers and deny that any were executions, as alleged by human rights groups.
Some bishops have taken individual stands against the crackdown, denouncing it in sermons, issuing pro-life statements and supporting marches and calls for church bells to be rung in protest, but these remained sporadic efforts within the church.
Asked about the letter, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte was serving and protecting the people.
“Rather than attack the president ... I’d rather they issue a statement that they are praying for the president to succeed in his endeavour,” he said.


India seizes one ton of ketamine on boat, arrests six Myanmar crew

Updated 22 September 2019

India seizes one ton of ketamine on boat, arrests six Myanmar crew

  • India’s coast guard seized $42 million worth of ketamine

NEW DELHI: India’s coast guard has arrested six Myanmar men and seized $42 million worth of ketamine after spotting a suspicious vessel in the Indian Ocean near the Nicobar Islands.
The 1,160-kilogram drug haul came after coast guard aircraft spotted the boat, which had its lights off, on Wednesday in India’s Exclusive Economic Zone, the defense ministry said in a statement.
The boat’s crew did not respond to radio calls and the coast guard eventually boarded it, with officials finding “57 gunny bundles of suspicious substance” on Friday.
“Preliminary analysis ... revealed that the suspicious substance was ketamine and there were 1,160 packets of 1kg each onboard the vessel,” the ministry added.
The six Myanmar men and cargo were taken to Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, where they were questioned by investigators.
They claimed they left Myanmar on September 14 and were due to rendezvous with another boat “operating near the Thailand-Malaysia maritime border line” on Saturday, the statement said.
The Nicobar Islands are located near Southeast Asia, off Myanmar’s coast.
Parts of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand are in the lawless “Golden Triangle” zone, the world’s second-largest drug-producing region after Latin America.
Large amounts drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine are churned out in remote jungle labs each year and smuggled across Asia and beyond.