Palace to bishop: Time to help quake victims, not criticize drug war

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MANILA — There is a proper time to make “vicious” remarks about the Duterte administration’s drug war, but now is a time to help victims of the 6.1 magnitude earthquake which struck parts of Luzon on Monday, Malacañang said.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo urged Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David to prioritize quake victims’ “spiritual needs” after the latter criticized the drug war, even saying that it is “the biggest lie”.

“How saddening that a man of the cloak like Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David instead of focusing his attention to the spiritual needs of his flock as well as helping in the rehabilitation of those affected by the earthquake has opted to unleash a cynical view if not an outright misrepresentation of the President’s war on drugs,” said Panelo in a statement on Tuesday.

David, who is also vice president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), is one of the staunchest critics of Duterte’s war on drugs.

Panelo said David should heed the advice of Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle to “just give succor to those affected by the recent earthquake instead of resorting to negative rhetoric against the government”.

“While it is true that we live in a free and democratic country where the contradicting even vicious opinion of a minority is given equal, if not more, space to be heard, there is however a time for reflection, introspection, quietude and the extending of hands to help the needy in times of tragedy and crisis. This is one such time,” he said.

Panelo acknowledged that David is entitled to his own opinion, but asserted that “facts” proving the success of the drug war spoke for itself.

“While one is entitled to his own opinion, the truth however cannot be removed from the facts obtaining nor can they be altered to form a biased opinion,” Panelo said.

Citing the December 2018 Social Weather Station survey result, Panelo said more than six out of ten Filipinos (66 percent) say the number of illegal drug users in their area has decreased.

Panelo noted that since the start of Duterte’s term in 2016 until November last year, 164,265 drug personalities have been arrested, 9,503 barangays cleared from drugs, and PHP25.19 billion worth of drugs and equipment have been seized.

“The voice of satisfaction of the great majority of Filipinos with the drug war has consistently been resounding,” Panelo said.

“These figures are real numbers and unalterable facts that cannot be erased even by the magical wand of Bishop David,” he added.

Panelo further emphasized that it is only under the current administration where the real situation on illicit drugs in the country “has been exposed in all its ugliness and terrifying magnitude”.

“The facts on how the President addresses the problem of illegal narcotics remain exemplary as they are daring even as they are relentless,” he added.

Panelo, meanwhile, urged David to hear out majority of Filipinos’ satisfaction in relation to the drug war.

“We therefore suggest to Bishop David to go down from the pulpit and listen to the resounding collective voice of his parishioners that he may find their true and genuine sentiments,” Panelo said. -PNA

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