Manila, Philippines, Oct 12, 2019 / 15:00 pm
Amid a United Nations investigation into a brutal “war on drugs” by Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, a Catholic bishop is calling for the country’s Department of Health (DOH) to take a more active health-centered approach to tackling the nation’s drug problem.
Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan, a city in metro Manila, said this week that intimidation and killings will not stop the problem of drugs in the country.
“I’ve been challenging the DOH to be more involved in drug rehabilitation because drug addiction is a mental health issue,” he said, according to Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) News.
David is a vocal critic of Duterte’s harsh tactics against drug users and dealers, and the government’s tactics have been a major point of contention with Catholic leaders for several years.
In 2017, the country’s bishops called for both a 33-day rosary campaign and a 40-day prayer campaign for peace.
Over the past three years, Duterte has been heading a brutal war on drugs in the Philippines. The campaign against drugs has drawn significant international criticism for its reported extrajudicial killings and death squads. Nearly 500 deaths have been reported this year alone, and more than 6,000 people were killed in the six months after he took office.
By the beginning of 2017 alone, police reported at least 2,250 drug suspects killed, while at least 3,700 others were murdered by unknown suspects who sometimes accused their victims of being drug dealers or addicts, according to AFP.
Human rights organizations now put the total death toll since 2016 at more than 27,000— a figure that includes those killed by vigilantes, Rappler reports.