Thousands of Catholics in the Philippines capital, Manila staged a huge protest against what it termed extra-judicial killings and plan by the government to reimpose death penalty for criminals.
The protest tagged ‘Walk for Life’ was endorsed by Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
The protest is coming days after the church launched its strongest attack against President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.
According to organisers of the protest, over 50,000 are taking part in the march toward Manila’s Rizal Park, while about 10,000 based on police estimates stayed to hear speeches.
According to a Police report, over 7,600 people have been killed since the launch of anti-drug war: about 2,500 of them were killed in shootouts during sting operations.
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 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.
In its most strongly worded attack on the crackdown on drug pushers and users, a CBCP pastoral letter read out at services across the country early this month said killing people was not the answer to trafficking of illegal drugs.