POSTSCRIPT / December 4, 2018 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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Pope is endorsing Duterte drug drive?

IT IS amazing how a message of Pope Francis to an international conference on the global narcotics problem has been misinterpreted in Manila as an endorsement of the bloody anti-drug campaign of the Duterte administration.

In his message to the Nov. 29-Dec. 1 conference at the Vatican, the Pope said the Church has been working with various groups worldwide to combat the drug menace through holistic prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and reintegration projects.

Many administration supporters read the papal message as an endorsement of the bloody police action against drug suppliers and users. The idea is preposterous.

Malacañang said the Pope’s message was timely and relevant, adding: “This is precisely the rationale behind the President’s war on illegal drugs: to save the young and future generations of Filipinos from the drug scourge.”

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has criticized Duterte’s drug war that has left more than 4,900 drug suspects dead, per police data. Human rights groups, whose “kill” figures are higher, said the campaign has encouraged extrajudicial killings and other abuses.

A Cabinet official has described the drug scourge as a “people problem,” saying that killing the people involved reduced it. His brutal narrow view sounded to some shocked observers as a local variation of social engineering or cleansing. 

If the problem were an unwanted tree, the administration’s approach is like trimming the twigs and leaves without digging out the roots. On the people aspect, the administration goes all-out against drug pushers and users while sparing the big-time smugglers and drug lords.

Even as drug addiction is widely seen in studies as a social/medical problem, the administration gives minimal attention to attacking the root causes and rehabilitating and reintegrating the victims.

Addressing the conference on drugs and addiction held in the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis said Saturday it is the duty of governments to fight “those who deal in death.” He underscored the increasing danger of internet-based efforts to lure the youth into addiction.

• Pope Francis’ message on drug menace

TO SHOW that the Pope’s universal message did not endorse (as neither then newly elected US President Trump in his phone greetings in 2017 did not endorse President Duterte’s controversial drug war) we print below the unedited address of the Pontiff:

“Dear brothers and sisters, I am pleased to receive you at the conclusion of this International Congress on Drugs and Addictions. I offer all of you a cordial greeting and I thank Cardinal Turkson for his words of introduction to our meeting.

“In these days, you have discussed issues and problems linked to the troubling phenomenon of narcotics and other forms of addiction, old and new, which pose an obstacle to integral human development. Communities everywhere are challenged by current social and cultural changes and by pathologies derived from a secularized climate marked by consumerist capitalism, self-sufficiency, a loss of values, an existential void, and a weakening of bonds and relationships.

“Drug addiction, as has often been pointed out, is an open wound in our society; its victims, once ensnared, exchange their freedom for enslavement to a dependency that we can define as chemical.

“Drug use is gravely harmful to health, human life, and society. All of us are called to combat the production, processing, and distribution of drugs worldwide. It is the duty and responsibility of governments courageously to undertake this fight against those who deal in death. 

“An area of increasing risk is virtual space; on some Internet sites, young people, and not only the young, are lured into a bondage hard to escape, leading to a loss of life’s meaning and, at times, even of life itself.

“Faced with this disturbing scenario, the Church senses the urgent need to create in today’s world a form of humanism capable of restoring the human person to the center of social, economic and cultural life: a humanism grounded in the ‘Gospel of Mercy’.

“There the disciples of Jesus find the inspiration for a pastoral action that can prove truly effective in alleviating, caring for and healing the immense suffering associated with different kinds of addiction present in our world. In a throwaway society, God discards no one; for him no one is irredeemable!

“The Church, together with local, national and international institutions, and various educational agencies, is concretely engaged in every part of the world in combating the spread of addictions, devoting her resources to prevention, care, rehabilitation, and reinsertion, in order to restore dignity to those who have lost it.

“Fighting addictions calls for a combined effort on the part of various local groups and agencies in enacting social programs promoting health care, family support and especially education.

“In this regard, I readily support the desire expressed by this Conference for a better coordination of policies aimed at halting the growth of drug abuse and addictions through the creation of networks of solidarity and closeness to those suffering from these pathologies.

“Dear brothers and sisters, I express my deep gratitude for your contribution to these days of study and reflection. I encourage all of you, in your various sectors, to pursue your commitment to increasing awareness and offering support to those who have emerged from the tunnel of drug addiction and various addictions. They need our help and accompaniment, so that they, in turn, will be able to ease the pain of so many of our brothers and sisters in difficulty.

“I entrust your efforts and your worthy initiatives to the intercession of Our Lady, Health of the Infirm. I ask you, please, to remember me in your prayers. To all of you, and to your families and communities, I cordially impart my blessing.”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 4, 2018)

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