Reiterating our Stand Against Drug Abuse and Capital Punishment

A Statement of the Philippines Central Conference Board of Church and Society

August 2017

We United Methodists support the government’s efforts to curb and eradicate the problem of illegal drugs.

The United Methodist Social Principles states (¶162. III. The Social Community, L. Alcohol and Other Drugs) that

… the use of illegal drugs, as well as illegal and problematic use of alcohol, is a major factor in crime, disease, death, and family dysfunction,

Millions of living human beings are testimony to the beneficial consequences of therapeutic drug use, and millions of others are testimony to the detrimental consequences of drug misuse.

We support regulations that protect society from users of drugs of any kind, including alcohol, where it can be shown that a clear and present social danger exists. Drug-dependent persons and their family members . . . are individuals of infinite human worth deserving of treatment, rehabilitation, and ongoing life-changing recovery.

Because of the frequent interrelationship between alcohol abuse and mental illness, we call upon legislators and health care providers to make available appropriate mental illness treatment and rehabilitation for drug-dependent persons. We commit ourselves to assisting those who suffer from abuse or dependence, and their families, in finding freedom through Jesus Christ and in finding good opportunities for treatment, for ongoing counseling, and for reintegration into society.

Human beings are God’s images

So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1.27)

We were created to reflect God’s love, dignity and freedom.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet. (Psalm 8.3-6)

The image of God in human beings makes the right to life innate to humans as created by God, and this granting of the right to life should never be presumptuously thought of as a privilege by those holding social and political power. A human being has the right to live and should not be killed by another human being.  The Biblical admonition stands,

Thou shalt not kill (Deuteronomy 5:17)

The right to life is enshrined in Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:

Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life. (Article 6.1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights)

We are not opposed to the government’s efforts to curb and eradicate the problem of illegal drugs. But after having said that, we ought also to assert that since human beings are created in the God’s image, their lives are sacred and therefore everyone’s right to life should be respected and protected by law, divine and human, especially the life of the innocent.

President Rodrigo Duterte has placed his reputation and even his life at risk when he swore to eradicate the illicit drugs trade in 3 to 6 months by launching War on Drugs. But what is happening around us is frightening—it’s result: an unending body count of victims of extrajudicial killing of the victims of drug use (instead of their rehabilitation) by police and vigilantes agitated by President Duterte himself. Owing to the magnitude of the drug menace, President Duterte believes extra-judicial killings is a small price to pay for peace, law and order, thereby vigorously defending his men, shielding them from investigation, and virtually licensing the police to shoot-to-kill people who have yet to be proven guilty or even to have anything to do with the illicit drug trade. This in turn resulted to the reign of impunity. Consequently, as of the end of this month, there have been around 13,000 deaths, both from legitimate police operations and by unidentified assailants in vigilante-style or unexplained killings. What is alarming is that, intentional and deliberate or not, President Duterte’s war on drugs kills the poor, not poverty.

Whoever sheds the blood of a human, by a human shall that person’s blood be shed; for in his own image, God made humankind. (Genesis 9:6)

You shall not pollute the land in which you live; for blood pollutes the land, and no expiation can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of the one who shed it (Numbers 35:33)

Innocent blood should not be shed in your land… and so blood be upon you. (Deuteronomy 19:10)

Thus says the Lord: Act with justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place (Jeremiah 22:3)

And this is one of the many bases of the struggle against extra-judicial killing, i.e., killing without the benefit of the due process of law.

However, the innocent are not the only ones who should not be deprived of life. All human beings, even criminals and persons addicted to drugs, because they are made in the image of God, never lose their right to live and therefore should not be killed by their fellow human beings.  Violence and death solve nothing.

Nobody – including the government – can end anybody’s life. The government should take appropriate measures to safeguard life by fulfilling what the law requires in protecting individual lives.  Public authorities should also consider persons’ right to life when making decisions that might put them in jeopardy.  We hold government responsible for protection of this right of the people.

International law only allows law enforcement officers to deliberately take life (shooting to kill) where absolutely necessary to defend themselves and others against an imminent threat to life.

We believe the death penalty denies the power of Christ to redeem, restore and transform all human beings.

… We believe all human life is sacred and created by God and therefore, we must see all human life as significant and valuable.

When governments implement the death penalty (capital punishment), then the life of the convicted person is devalued and all possibility of change in that person’s life ends. We believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and that the possibility of reconciliation with Christ comes through repentance.  This gift of reconciliation is offered to all individuals without exception and gives all life new dignity and sacredness.  For this reason, we oppose the death penalty (capital punishment) and urge its elimination from all criminal codes. (¶164. V. The Political Community, G. The Death Penalty)

We are in sympathy and unite with the other sectors and groups in our country who believe that it is never enough “that the President condemn the killings.” The government must desist and discontinue its kill-and-take-no-prisoners solution to the illicit drug menace.

The job of government is to stop the killings and hold the perpetrators accountable, whether they be from the criminal syndicates or from law enforcers themselves. It is necessary that government start making abusive officials accountable. Already, impunity has crossed over to other aspects of law enforcement… The mounting deaths are unacceptable and will inevitably spur more protests. These killings must stop. (Bayan Press Statement, 4 Aug 2016, Reference: Dr. Carol Araullo, Chairperson)

Our opposition to unabated killings in relation to the war on drugs stands. Such evil is destructive of the humanity, not only of the slain but also of the perpetrators, promote impunity, and shall therefore never be tolerated by the church.  We require the investigation of all suspicious deaths and deaths in custody.  The United Methodist Social Principles (¶164. V. The Political Community, H. Criminal and Restorative Justice) is unambiguous,

We… support measures designed to remove the social conditions that lead to crime, and we encourage continued positive interaction between law enforcement officials and members of the community at large.

Stop Killing the Poor and the innocent
Stop Drug Related Killings
Stop Extra-Judicial Killings
Oppose the imposition of Death Penalty
We call on the churches to respond to all of these by,

  1. Opening our churches, institutions, and facilities as sanctuaries for people who are victims of illegal drugs.
  2. Letting our pastors and lay people to engage in extending our ministry to the victims of illegal drugs, including their families.
  3. Speaking prophetically in these trying times.
  4. Expressing our belief that life is sacred and should be respected and protected.
  5. Calling the government to address the roots of the problem of illegal drug abuse. It must provide sufficient medical and social support for drug-dependent persons – employment, social reintegration, and other support mechanisms. The socio-economic conditions that allow the proliferation of illegal drugs in poor communities should also be addressed decisively.
Bishop Ciriaco Q. Francisco
Bishop Assigned to the PCC-BCS
Rev. Genesis Antonio
Rev. Aniceto R. Villalon, Jr.
Executive Director

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