Legazpi Bishop Joel Baylon is adding voice on the strong opposition to the Duterte administration-sanctioned deadly all-out war on drug users and pushers.
During the Sunday mass service, the bishop lamented the unfortunate disregard of the strong moral outcry for life.
The Legazpi prelate announced the ringing of church bells in all parishes of Albay province every night at 9 p.m. as a signal to the faithful to pray for an end to extrajudicial killings.
A two-paged open letter “Prayer at Nine” addressed to the President was read in 45 churches in the province a day after Duterte repeated his vow to execute drug addicts, urging them to stay indoors and never go out of their houses.
“We will ring the bells of our churches and chapels to call our people to prayer, to ask God to bless us all with his grace of mercy and compassion,” Baylon said.
Baylon expressed the prevailing situation as the citizenry are “sadly witnessing a growing callousness among our people, accepting these as a fact of life; for they say, these persons were after all drug addicts, and therefore they deserved to die.”
Five months into the anti-drugs campaign, the death toll has now climbed beyond 5,000 with no sign of stopping as carried out by emboldened police authorities and extra-judicial killing operatives.
“What is happening to us? Have we become so heartless that we cannot anymore feel for them, their families and those loved ones they have left behind?” the Bishop asked.
The Bishop pointed out that the drug problem no matter how bad, will never justify summary executions.
Appeasing the Chief Executive, the Bishop manifested his support for the drive against illegal drugs and other forms of criminal activities but then questioned the method of implementation as “the end does not justify the means.”
The prelate urged Duterte to examine his approach to eliminating the drug menace and exert more efforts to stop the violence.
On the same occasion Bishop Baylon announced the establishment of the diocese’s “House of Hope,” a community-based rehabilitation program for drug dependents.
The program aims to provide recovery coaching, spiritual guidance, and life skills training to substance users.
Baylon stressed that the sincere effort is their desire to help and assure retrunees that in life “there are second chances and the opportunity to do and be better.”
Observers are quick to say that Bishop Baylon is courting the ire of foul-mouthed President Duterte.