Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is facing opposition from one of the country’s most powerful institutions: the Roman Catholic Church.
Priests and bishops in this heavily Catholic nation were initially quiet after Duterte assumed office last summer and began a violent crackdown on suspected drug dealers. His controversial war on drugs has left more than 8,000 dead in just nine months.
According to USA Today online, however, the powerful Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines issued a pastoral letter that condemned Duterte’s war on drugs as a “reign of terror.”
“As a church we don’t want killings,” said Fr. Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the conference, which issues guidelines and policy for the Church. “But it’s becoming the new normal in our society. There’s killing everywhere. The church right now is speaking forcefully against these issues.”
Duterte has clashed with the Catholic Church, using provocative language. He called Pope Francis “a son of a bitch,” and last month called the Church one of the “oligarchs of this country.”
Despite the Church’s condemnations, his war on drugs did not slow down last week as the Philippines celebrated Easter: There were 39 reported drug-related killings.
The Church is not alone in challenging Duterte. A formal impeachment complaint was filed last month against him by Rep. Gary Alejano for crimes committed during the war on drugs and corruption allegations that claim Duterte has amassed $40m in unexplained wealth.
“We wanted to give him the chance to run the country,” Alejano said. “But what we’re seeing so far is a clear indication of his policies, of killing without trial and due process of law. That is very dangerous to our democracy.”
On April 24, a Filipino lawyer filed a complaint at the International Criminal Court in The Hague accusing Duterte and 11 other Philippine officials of mass murder and crimes against humanity.