Thousands ‘walk for life’ in Philippines against Duterte’s tactics

More than 7,600 people have been killed since Duterte launched his anti-drug campaign seven months ago.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Participants join a "procession" against plans to reimpose the death penalty, promote contraceptives and intensify the drug war during "Walk for Life" in Luneta park, metro Manila, Philippines, February 18, 2017.

Thousands of Filipino Catholics marched in the Philippines capital Manila on Saturday denouncing extra-judicial killings and President Rodrigo Duterte's plans to reimpose the death penalty.

Dubbed a 'Walk for Life' prayer rally and endorsed by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), as many as 50,000 people took part in the march toward Manila's Rizal Park, while about 10,000, based on police estimates, stayed to hear speeches.

More than 7,600 people have been killed since Duterte launched his anti-drugs campaign seven months ago. More than 2,500 died in shootouts during raids and sting operations, according to the police.

TRT World’s Matthew Sye-mington has more details.

Duterte adamant

Amid mounting criticism about a surge in killings, Duterte said on Saturday that the campaign was "by and large successful."

Speaking at the Philippine Military Academy's alumni homecoming in Baguio City, he said the drug problem was more complex than he initially thought, prompting him to seek military support.

"I need the help of each one, especially the military, not for social control but protection (for) the citizens from the lawless, the reckless, and the selfish," the firebrand leader said.

Both the government and police have denied that extra-judicial killings have taken place. But human rights groups believe many deaths that police had attributed to vigilantes were carried out by assassins likely colluding with police.

"We cannot teach that killing is wrong by killing those who kill. It also increases the number of killers," CBCP president and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said in a statement.

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, who also joined the rally, called for strengthening and promoting the culture of non-violent movements.

Nearly 80 percent of the Philippines' 100 million people are Catholic, and until recently the church had been hesitant to criticise Duterte's war on drugs.


TRTWorld and agencies