Last Saturday, 30 July 2016, the Board of Trustees of the PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI) had their regular meeting.
Among a number of actions they made, our leaders reaffirmed their commitment to active nonviolence based on our Peace Theology. Our community seeks to be consistent with the values expressed in a New Testament passage known as ‘The Beatitudes’ (Matthew 5:1-12).
PeaceBuilders Community was established in Davao City where our national office has been operating since 2006. We love the leadership of our former mayor, Rodrigo Duterte. We are ordinary workers, peacebuilding field workers, and peace advocates who saw our neighborhoods that were transformed from war zones to safe communities under the leadership of then Mayor Duterte–who was ‘Tatay Digong’ to most of us. We supported his campaign until he was elected as President of the Philippines.
Now, we are sharing how we think and feel about the spate of killings since this ‘War on Drugs’ started. How do we look at this through the lenses of the Peace of Christ? How do we approach ‘Human Security’ using the principles of a Mennonite peace theology?
A senior member of our community shared his insights on The Beatitudes and the need for these principles to permeate our hearts, minds, and actions even if these biblical principles of non-violence is not popular these days. He also shared with us how The Beatitudes would permeate our view of Human Security, not just as a strategy for peacebuilding, but as an inherent aspect of our understanding of peace. We affirmed, not without the internal struggles, that nothing — not even a vision for a radically-transformed nation — can justify extra-judicial killings and all forms of violence.
Our community, who is committed to the principles and practice of Peace and Reconciliation, is journeying along with the rest of the country as we stand against extra-judicial killings.
At the same time, we support the many other positive and non-violent actions of our new government, under the leadership of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, towards a significantly less corrupt nation and towards a significantly more transparent government.
We will continue our field operations in accordance with our vision, mission, and objectives based on these perspectives.
PBCI also participated in a nation-wide consultation among evangelical leaders to study and reflect on the government’s War on Drugs and the spate of killings that go with the campaign. We sent Twinkle Alngag Bautista, our best field staff analyst, along with three of our senior consultants, Dr. Mariano Apilado, Dr. Aldrin Peñamora, and Prof. Joseph Ongkiko. As a result of that consultation, a statement was published through the major national media outlets:
PCEC Statement on the Administration’s Campaign Against Illegal Drugs
As committed followers of our Lord Jesus Christ, PCEC stands in unity with our President, Rodrigo Roa Duterte, in his laudable determination to eradicate the widespread illegal drugs trade, which is destroying countless lives that include the youth of our beloved nation. We are pleased that large numbers of wayward drug pushers and dependents have surrendered to lawful authorities. In accordance with what the Holy Scripture says in 1 Timothy 2:1-4, we are to pray for all people particularly those who are in authority. We therefore pray that those who are mired deeply in the use of prohibited drugs will be able to mend their ways. We pray earnestly for the well-being of our President and his government, as well as our police forces whose lives are often at risk so we Filipinos may enjoy a safe and peaceful society.
However, we are deeply concerned with the daily bloodshed of those who are accused of being a “pusher,” “addict,” or involved in some way in prohibited drugs. While there certainly are legitimate instances when our police forces need to inflict fatal injuries, there also are numerous instances when drug suspects, many of them only in their youth, seemed to have been brutally killed outside the ambit of the law. In such cases we therefore ask: Where is the rule of law that ensures every Filipino accused of an offense must first be convicted beyond a reasonable doubt by a court of law before fair and just punishments are meted out? Where is justice in the killings of those who are accused when our law does not even permit as a punishment the killing of a person? How can we claim justice and peace in our land when murderers are allowed to kill with impunity and roam freely? We grieve for the many that have been unjustly killed and for the loved ones they left behind.
During the most recent State of the Nation Address (SONA, July 25, 2016), it was gladdening to hear our beloved President say that there is no separation between God and the state. As Evangelical Christians, one of the bedrocks of our faith concerning the person and character of God that accords with the Holy Bible is God’s love for all human beings, for he is their Creator and the very source of human life (Genesis 2: 7; 1 Timothy 6: 13). For this very reason, all life is sacred and worthy of reverent respect. All are equal in the sight of God that cares and loves even the wicked who have lost their way (Matthew 5:45; John 8:7-11). No demonstration of God’s love for all human beings is greater than Jesus’ giving up of his life on the cross of Calvary, which took place to give sinful human beings an opportunity to turn back to God (John 3: 16; Romans 5:8). It is also stated in 2 Peter 3:9: “Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” We earnestly hope our belief on the utmost sacredness of every human life can be reflected in our government’s campaign against illegal drugs and give those who are addicted in substance abuse every chance to recover and be contributing citizens that follow not only our nation’s laws but also God’s laws.
We therefore support and commend President Duterte for his assurance to investigate the questionable killings of those who were accused of involvement in illegal drugs. We are also hopeful in calling on the President to strengthen further the protection of the law for those who are accused of drug-related crimes. We call on the President to be more circumspect in his assertions and pronouncements concerning the taking of human life against drug offenders, because his statements can be interpreted as explicit or tacit approval to carry out unlawful executions.
We call on our Chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), Gen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, to intensify the investigations of the killings of alleged drug suspects, and to use the full resources of the PNP to apprehend those who are responsible for the killings. We also call for the providing of adequate “personal protective equipments” for our police forces so they can be protected from serious bodily harm, which will also minimize the necessity for them to immediately inflict fatal injuries to criminals during police operations.
We call on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to provide trials that are fair, speedy and free from any appearance of corruption, in order to deter people from seeking “justice” by their own hands.
We call on the Evangelical churches in our country to be more involved in caring holistically and use their particular strengths of service to help cultivate among our fellow Filipinos a profound respect and appreciation for the sanctity of life and the dignity of every human being. We call on Evangelical Christians to denounce the unlawful and brutal killings of drug suspects, which demonstrate utter disregard for human life. At this particular juncture in our nation’s history when many Filipinos tend to be unconcerned about the killings, the churches are more urgently called to be salt and light to our nation (Matthew 5:13-14).
Finally, we call on every Filipino to be in solidarity in helping to improve the anti-drug program that our President has initiated. May we be like the “Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:25-75), who out of compassion and utmost regard for human life, went out of his way to succor back to life a half-dead stranger. It is our prayer that we Filipinos will also be agents of compassion, hospitality and hope for many of our fellow Filipinos who are now mired in illegal substance abuse. May we be able to help them realize that their life is sacred and valuable, and that with the Lord’s help, it is within their reach to lead drug-free, fulfilled and abundant lives (John 10:10).
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 1:2)