Church questions drug war in sermons

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Speak up or become part of the problem. Church leaders issued this call in a pastoral letter read in all masses on Sunday.

"To consent and to keep silent in front of evil is to be an accomplice to it. If we neglect the drug addicts, we have become part of the drug problem," the letter read.

The church urged the faithful not to keep silent about the spate of killings related to President Duterte's war on drugs.

"We really have to stand up. We cannot just keep quiet amidst all the killings," Fr. Aris Sison, rector of The Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Cubao said.

Read: War vs. poor: Police paid per drug killing – Amnesty International

Lingayen Archbishop Socrates Villegas signed the letter in his capacity as president of the Catholic Bishops Conference (CBCP) of the Philippines.

Though some church leaders have previously spoken out against drug related killings, this is the first time the CBCP made a united stand on the issue.

In the letter, the country's bishops expressed concern over the many deaths linked to the drug war, which they believe has created a reign of terror among the poor.

The CBCP said they are one with Filipinos in desiring change. However, it also emphasized that killing is wrong, and should never be seen as a decent solution to the country's drug problem.

"Sabi ng mga obispo, the problem is poverty. So the solution is to give work, stable work, decent wages, for all people, and also to protect the family," Fr. Sison explained.

They vowed to continue voicing out their concerns even if they are persecuted for it.

The message resonated with some churchgoers.

Report: Philippines on downward trend in upholding freedom due to war on drugs

In an interview, a churchgoer agreed everyone should be given a second chance.

"Siguro dapat bigyan ng pagkakataon kahit gaano kasama ang isang tao, na bigyan ng pagkakataon magbago. Hindi basta patayin," the churchgoer said.

[Translation: Maybe we should give people a chance. No matter how bad they are, give them a chance to change. We shouldn't kill them.]

Another said, "Sang-ayon naman ako, kami, as Catholics sa campaign ng simbahan for the program ng gobyerno against drugs [I, we, as Catholics agree with the church's campaign for the government's program] as long as due process is being observed."

Meanwhile, Malacañang in a statement said Filipinos continue to support the government's efforts to make the streets are safer.

"The officials of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) are apparently out of touch with the sentiments of the faithful who overwhelmingly support the changes in the Philippines - turning the nation into a safer place for families, working people, especially young night shift workers, far from the "terror" the bishops paint rather dramatically," Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said in the statement.

It added, bishops should stick to practical teachings that build strong moral character among the faithful, and contribute to the peace felt by ordinary citizens.

"The efforts of these Church leaders might be put to better use in practical catechetics that build strong moral character among the faithful, and so contribute more to the reign of peace felt by ordinary citizens everywhere, especially those who are innocent of illegal activities," he said.