Church blasts drug killings 

The head of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, Cardinal Luis Tagle, has criticised President Rodrigo Duterte’s drugs slaughter, condemning “those who kill even the helpless”. 

More than 12,500 people, many of whom were users and street-level dealers, have been killed since Duterte took office in June last year. The police say about 3,500 of those killed were shot by officers in self-defence.

Reuters reported that at least 90 people were shot dead last week, with 32 killed during a single day in Bulacan province to the north of Manila.

Kian Delos Santos, 17, was among the dead with police saying he was killed after shooting at officers on Tuesday in Caloocan.

But security video showed him being carried by two men to a place where his body was later found, raising doubt about the official claim that he was shot because he fired at the police.

The Caloocan police chief has been suspended and is facing an investigation and three officers involved in the operation were earlier relieved of their duties. Meanwhile, senators loyal to Duterte put forward a resolution condemning the violence and the senate will summon police this week to explain the sudden rise in killings.

The justice department in Manila has begun an investigation into Duterte’s drug “war”.

Human rights activists say many of the victims during the last 14 months were killed by assassins operating with police backing or by police disguised as vigilantes. The police deny the charges.

On Sunday, Tagle issued a sermon read out in Manila’s church services.

“We knock on the consciences of those who kill even the helpless, especially those who cover their faces, to stop wasting human lives.

“The illegal drug problem should not be reduced to a political or criminal issue. It is a humanitarian concern that affects all of us.”

In agreement, Archbishop Socrates Villegas called on churches to ring their bells at 8pm every day to show solidarity with the victims.

“The sound of the bells is a wake-up call for a nation that no longer knows how to condole with the bereaved” and is too “cowardly” to condemn the violence, he said.

“You shall not kill. That is a sin. That is against the law,” he added.

Most Filipinos express support for the anti-drug campaign and Duterte remains a popular leader but more questions are being asked about the scale of the killing.

At the sharp end of the Duterte’s drug killings. Picture credit: YouTube