Jesus is Lord (JIL) movement leader Eddie Villanueva on Friday condemned alleged extrajudicial killings (EJK) committed by 'scalawags' under the government’s bloody drug war and questioned the supposed failure of authorities to resolve the cases.
“Granting without us believing it is all vigilantes (behind the killings), where are they? Nakasuhan ba? Hinabol ba ng pamahalaan? Ano ba talaga [ang] ginawa niyo? (Were cases filed against them? Did government pursue them? What did you really do?)” Villanueva said in his speech at the celebration of the JIL's 39th anniversary at the Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park, Manila.
In a press conference later, Villanueva said that “as a Christian”, he could not accept the alleged drug-related killings.
He noted the intent of “scalawag” police officers to seek glory for the killings, and cited confessions of policemen-turned-vigilantes racked by their conscience.
“[T]he problem is killings right and left…as a Christian, I could not accept this. I believe in my heart, the President does not know this. These could be abuses of the scalawag members of the police system who decided to impress their superiors,” said Villanueva, whose church commands a millions-strong international following.
Villanueva's son Sen. Joel Villanueva is part of the Senate majority allied with President Rodrigo Duterte.
“There are some policemen who confessed to us as Christian leaders. They could not stomach it, and they decided to resign. Because according to them, 'pag pinapatay na nila, awang-awa na sila, nagmamakaawa,” he said.
Officials have repeatedly asserted that drug suspects killed in police operations had put up violent resistance, forcing officers to shoot them in self-defense.
Per police figures, some 3,800 were killed in anti-drug operations from the start of the administration's drug war in July 2016 until President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to lead the anti-narcotics campaign.
Human rights groups place the death toll at roughly 13,000, but the administration has said this figure is overblown.
The evangelical church leader's rare statement is the latest condemnation of unsolved killings from the religious sector, following steady criticism from the influential Catholic Church.
Catholic leaders have come under fire from Malacañang for its statements.
Like the JIL, the Catholic Church has been approached by law enforcers bothered by their conscience over summary killings, according to its leaders.
In October, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said several police officers went to their spiritual leaders "to seek sanctuary, succor and protection" because "their consciences are troubling them."
Malacañang then cautioned the church, saying the clergy should “exercise due diligence as there are drug protectors, kidnappers, kotong and ninja cops who want to destroy the ongoing campaign against illegal drugs.”