MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte said he gave Catholic bishops lists of suspected drug personalities in their respective areas, in a bid tap the Church leadership’s help in the his administration's war on drugs.
Duterte said he decided to share “state secrets” to the bishops so the latter can help locate and verify suspected drug personalities in their localities.
“Sabi ko, ikaw simbahan, sige kayo sa reklamo na patayan, patayan, patayan. Sabi ko, ‘eto ang listahan sa suspected drug pushers, drug lords,” Duterte said in a recorded interview on state-run television that aired Friday evening.
“Kinuha ko ang listahan, ibigay mo sa bishop, nandyan ang pangalan, sabi ko kayong simbahan tingnan niyo ang mga pangalan kung nandyan ba sa inyo.”
The clergy has been one of the staunchest critics of the government’s war on drugs, appealing to the government to stop drug-related killings.
Duterte, however, has been undeterred by the criticisms and instead pointed to the ills afflicting the Church.
The Church last Sept. 14 started a 40-day ritual wherein Church bells across the country would be rung to display opposition to the “reign of terror” under Duterte.
Church officials say the tolling of bells for the dead originated from the Crusades, when Christian nations of Europe sent military expeditions to reclaim holy places in the Middle East.
The Catholic Church, to which 8 in 10 Filipinos belong, has a history of influencing politics in the Philippines and helped lead the "People Power" revolution that overthrew dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.
Duterte won last year's presidential elections on a brutal law-and-order platform in which he promised an unprecedented campaign to eradicate illegal drugs in society.
Duterte has made the drug war the top priority of his administration, and has encouraged bloodshed with comments in public such as describing himself as "happy to slaughter" 3 million addicts.
Nevertheless, the president and his aides reject allegations they are overseeing a crime against humanity.
They say police are killing only in self-defense, and the thousands of other unexplained murders could be due to drug gangs fighting each other.
Many Filipinos looking for quick solutions to crime continue to support Duterte, according to polls, and he enjoys majority backing in both houses of Congress.
But the Church has emerged as the leader of a growing opposition in recent months.
The killings of three teenagers, two of them at the hands of police in the northern Manila district of Caloocan on consecutive nights last month, sparked rare street protests against the crackdown. - with Agence France-Presse