Philippines: Bishops Warn About Threat of Dictatorship as Duterte Declares National Emergency

The Catholic bishops of the Philippines have warned against the danger of a dictatorship after President Rodrigo Duterte declared a “state of national emergency” in the wake of a September 2nd terrorist attack in Davao City.

President Duterte, the former mayor of Davao, said that the state of national emergency was necessary not only because of terrorist attacks in the region, where Islamic militants have been active, but more generally because of a trend toward lawlessness throughout the nation.

The new president had already incurred criticism from representatives of the Catholic Church because of statements that seemed to encourage vigilante justice against drug dealers and other criminals. Nearly 2,000 people have reportedly been killed by paramilitary groups, acting with the tacit cooperation of the military and police.

Bishop Broderick Pabillo, an auxiliary of the Manila archdiocese, said with that Duterte’s assumption of sweeping executive powers, “the Philippines could be surrounded by the dark shadows cast by Marcos.” In this, he was referring to the autocratic rule of President Ferdinand Marcos, who declared martial law in 1972 and only began to relinquish that control in 1981. Bishop Pabillo said that the Church should ensure that “those dark years are never repeated.”

Many Catholic leaders have decried the downward spiral of justice, which could worsen after the proclamation of a state of emergency.

The Association of Major Superiors in the Philippines said that “justice must take its course following correct procedures and within the limits prescribed by the law,” and should not be “summary justice”. The religious always highlight the “inviolability and sanctity of human life”.

They added: “In the Year of Mercy, let our humanity and compassion reach those who are marginalized”, without being “dehumanized by the culture of death”. The religious advocate a reform of the criminal justice system and stress the need for mechanisms and paths of rehabilitation for drug users.

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