MANILA (UPDATED) - Bishop Pablo Virgilio David on Monday said the biggest lie that he has heard in the last three years is that “the drug war is meant to eradicate illegal drugs.”
This is in response to a question of a journalist during the 2nd Conference on Democracy and Disinformation, organized by a consortium of media organizations, schools, and civil society groups.
David, who received death threats because of his stance against drug-related killings, talked about his work against extrajudicial killings, especially in the area of his diocese.
"I call attention to the way they arrest people. You don't call it an invitation when you barge into the homes of people, and you arrest people without warrant,” he said.
David said knowing there are Catholics who support extrajudicial killings “means that we have failed, that we have failed to educate consciences… We've failed in establishing connections between faith and life.
He said it seems Filipino Catholics can now “compartmentalize” their religion and social life “and see nothing wrong about things like these and at the same time claim to be believers, claim to be Christians.”
David, who has earned the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte, reminded the audience that Catholics have just celebrated Easter and renewed their baptism vows.
“And the most important vow at baptism is to say 'I renounce evil.' How can we even claim to be believers in a Trinitarian God if we're not of capable of renouncing evil in all its rawness? And what I observe all around is really raw evil,” he said.
In his keynote speech, the bishop talked about the “age of disinformation” and how people see truth as “relative."
He criticized the current “criteria” of truth such as: (1) If it is trending it must be truth, (2) If he is leading in the surveys then maybe he’s the guy to vote, (3) I’d rather trust somebody who flaunts his immorality, (4) If most of the comments about him are negative he probably really deserves them.
David also emphasized the importance of seeking truth as a community.
“It matters a lot that we protect the witnesses or the truthsayers,” he said of drug-related cases that have gone up since the start of the Duterte administration. “It matters that allegations are proven. That people are presumed innocent before proven guilty.”
On the other hand, the bishop said he is “glad that Facebook as a company is now waking up to the need for monitoring and control.”
He emphasized that “truth is not just a political issue” but is “above all a moral, spiritual issue.”
David said there are a lot of things that can be done to address disinformation. This includes possible legislation, education of students to shape and form their “critical faculties” and protection of truth tellers by independent agencies.
Reacting to David's remarks, Malacañang urged the bishop to acknowledge the satisfaction of the majority of Filipinos on the President's drug war.
"How saddening that a man of the cloak like Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David instead of focusing his attention to the spiritual needs of his flock as well as helping in the rehabilitation of those affected by the earthquake has opted to unleash a cynical view if not an outright misrepresentation of the President’s war on drugs saying that 'the biggest lie is that this drug war is meant to eradicate illegal drugs'," presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement released Tuesday night.
"It is only under this administration where the real situation on illicit drugs in the country has been exposed in all its ugliness and terrifying magnitude," he said.
Citing a December 2018 survey from Social Weather Stations (SWS), Panelo said majority of Filipinos reported that illegal drug users in their area have decreased as a result of the government's anti-narcotics campaign.
Since Duterte waged a war on illegal drugs, he said the government has arrested more than 164,000 drug personalities and seized more than P25 billion worth of drugs and equipment.
"These figures are real numbers and unalterable facts that can not be erased even by the magical wand of Bishop David," Panelo said.
"It maybe worthwhile for the good bishop to heed the advice of Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle to just give succour to those affected by the recent earthquake instead of resorting to negative rhetoric against the government."