Victims of the deadly Philippines drug war deserve to be remembered, said Catholic seminarians as they reaffirmed the need for true peace and unity. “We, seminarians of San José Seminary, will not forget the merciless and senseless deaths brought about by this drug campaign,” said the students from the Quezon City-based seminary.
“We will not forget the blatant disregard for the dignity of life, and the violation of human rights. We will not forget the violence and the lack of due process. We will not forget the evil that has come upon us,” continued their message, released Nov. 2 for All Souls’ Day. “On this day of remembering our beloved departed, we will remember the victims of this massacre. We will remember their families, and those who have been affected by this war, especially the poor,” the seminarians said.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte had campaigned on promises to kill those involved in drugs. After he was elected in May 2016, he quickly launched a violent crackdown on alleged drug dealers and drug users. Police officers and vigilantes had killed over 7,000 persons allegedly in the drug trade from July 2016 through January 2017, according to numbers provided by the Philippine National Police.
Groups like the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism charge that in more recent months authorities have stopped providing transparent statistics from more recent months lack transparency. Amnesty International has reported that police officers are paid under-the-table for encounters with drug traffickers that result in killing offenders. Police also share lists of suspects with vigilantes. The campaign has come under strong criticism from Church leaders.
The seminarians quoted one of these critics, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila. “We cannot allow the destruction of lives to become normal,” he said. “We cannot govern the nation by killing. We cannot foster a humane and decent Filipino culture by killing.”
The seminarians’ message cited the English writer John Donne’s famous prose meditation: “No man is an island, entire of itself… any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” “The bells toll, not for anyone else, but for us,” the seminarians commented.
“This day on, we will remember our identity — a people under one nation, a community built on zeal for freedom, justice and equity, and a family under one common goal, the good of all,” they said. “We commit ourselves to promoting unity by not limiting others to their parties and ‘colors,’ and by being vigilant against posts on social media that insinuate misunderstanding.”
The seminarians recommitted themselves to upholding Church teaching on the sanctity of life, forgiveness, justice, and “true peace.”