Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz has expressed apprehension over looming changes at the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) when the council votes a new set of officers in January 2017.
In an interview with Mornings@ANC on Thursday, Cruz noted that incumbent CBCP Vice-president Bishop Romulo Valles, who is expected to become the president per tradition, hails from the same city that President Rodrigo Duterte has served as mayor.
"It is a big possibility that come January, the President of the Philippines comes from Davao and the President also comes from Davao. That’s a very big possibility, not unless there’ll be some incoming factors that would do away with this traditional practice," he said.
He said, he "would not feel comfortable" if that happens because Valles is "rather close to Duterte."
"The closeness is nothing to do with what is right or wrong. It will have a relevance on how CBCP will look at the overall value of the actuation of the president of the republic," he said.
"Being from Davao himself, then the incoming, as presumptively incoming CBCP president, will definitely be more one with him than otherwise," he said.
The CBCP has yet to release an official statement on the recent spate of killings under the Duterte administration's war on drugs, but Cruz maintained it may be because some bishops are still weighing the issue.
"It’s not that they are just watching by, but I think they are still evaluating the issue, that’s why CBCP has not yet come out with a very categorical ‘no’ or ‘yes," he said.
He said the conference on January might be occasion for the bishops of the country to speak as one.
"I’m certain naman that no bishop will ever agree that the commandment of God ‘Thou shall not kill’ should be erased," he added.
But for now, Cruz warns of the negative impact of what he calls a culture of killing resulting from the government's all-out war against the drug menace and attempts to revive the death penalty.
He said self-defense by law enforcers, where "the intention is not to kill somebody, but to preserve your life" is morally acceptable, but it is highly irregular that all killings resulting from the anti-crime drive were done solely in self-defense.
"What I’m worried is this: there could be killings precisely because the subject killed no more than what they should, and therefore, silenced them," he said.
"Another possibility is that the killings is that to keep certain people quiet, for fear, to instill fear in the hearts of certain individuals," he added.
Cruz admitted he fears the growing number of casualties in the war on drugs imposed by Duterte would perpetuate into a larger culture of killing.
"There could be, little by little, the development of culture of killing—the perception that life, they come and go, and is not important whether you do away with it or have it," he said.
Cruz underscored this would be the same as killing a child inside a mother's womb because " it could just be one of those things," and not a living person.
"The culture of death is a possibility that could gradually creep into our environ as Filipinos, and to me, that is a very, very big liability," he said.
READ: War on drugs: Death toll rising
Meanwhile, Cruz is not convinced Senator Manny Pacquiao's privilege speech where he advocated for death penalty is based on his own personal belief on the matter.
READ: Pacquiao says death penalty 'moral and lawful'
"Let me say this: I doubt he is really convinced that death penalty is right, the Senator. I think he did this because of ‘political reasons,’" he said.
Cruz noted, the boxing champion and neophyte senator has been gradually getting closer with Duterte, and "therefore, is also expected to sing the same songs."
"The death penalty has been with the sitting president even before and now that he is the one now in the government, and there is this fighter who is pro-him—that’s why he said this statement that he is pro-death penalty," he said.