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Palace welcomes Pope Francis' statement on need to combat drug problem

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Palace welcomes Pope Francis' statement on need to combat drug problem
In this file photo from January 2015, Pope Francis is in the Philippines for an apostolic visit
Philstar.com / AJ Bolando, file

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Sunday welcomed Pope Francis' statement that governments should combat illegal drugs, saying the pontiff's message is relevant to the Philippines' situation. 

Last Saturday, Pope Francis described the drug problem in the world as a “worrying phenomenon" and called on governments to fight those who “deal in death.” 

Speaking to participants of a three-day conference on drugs in the Vatican, the pope said victims of drugs are lured to exchanging their freedom for slavery.

The leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics noted that the Church is working with various groups to address the problem through prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and reintegration projects.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the pontiff's remarks are "not only relevant but also timely when it comes to our country's present situation."

"We consider the Vatican's remarks as a boost in our campaign as we battle the twin evils of crimes and drugs," he added. 

"This is precisely the rationale behind the president's war on illegal drugs in the Philippines: to save the young and future generations of Filipinos from the drug scourge," he added. 

According to a Vatican News article on the pope's statement, he "noted that the 'worrying phenomenon of drugs and old and new addictions' is derived from a 'secularized cultural climate, marked by consumer capitalism, self-sufficiency, loss of values, existential emptiness, precariousness of ties and relationships.'"

The Vatican-run news website also reported: 

"In this situation, the Church feels the urgency of putting the human person back at the centre of the socio-economic-cultural discourse; a humanism founded on the 'Gospel of Mercy'. This calls for a truly effective pastoral action in order to alleviate, care for and heal the immense suffering caused by various forms of addiction, the pope said."

RELATED: Bishops slam Duterte for cursing Pope Francis

Panelo said the administration has achieved "laudable developments" in the anti-drug campaign despite the "noise" coming from the "loud minority" composed of the president's critics here and abroad.

During the campaign for the 2016 presidential elections, Duterte, then mayor of Davao City, said he wanted to curse Pope Francis for the heavy traffic caused by security measures for the pontiff's visit to the Philippines in 2015.

He later denied that his "p*tang *na" was addressed to Pope Francis himself. “I sincerely express sadness and regret that the part of my speech mentioning Pope Francis in relation to the monstrous traffic gridlock in January came across as being disrespectful to his Holiness Pope Francis. It was farthest from my mind and was never my intention,” Duterte said in a statement in December 2015.

Catholic Church in the Philippines

The Catholic Church in the Philippines has been critical of President Duterte's war on illegal drugs, which has left more than 4,900 drug suspects dead. 

Human rights groups have expressed concern that the campaign is encouraging extrajudicial killings and other abusive practices. Officials have denied this and maintained that the crackdown was meant to protect the young from the scourge of narcotics.

They have also claimed that arresting officers are only allowed to use violence if drug suspects fight back.

Panelo also denied that Duterte's tirades against the Church were meant to divert attention away from his administration's shortcomings. 

He said the president has accomplished a lot compared to some of his predecessors. 

"Dalawang taon pa lang siya. Kung ikukumpara mo siya sa ibang presidente, malayong malayo, (He has been in office for only two years. If you compare him with his other predecessors, he has achieved far more than they did)," Panelo said in an interview. 

Panelo said Duterte's criticisms against the Church were his personal views and had nothing to do with his performance. 

Last week, Duterte advised Roman Catholics to stop going to churches and has accused Church leaders of making money out of masses and baptisms. He said Catholic bishops, some of whom are critical of his crackdown on illegal drugs, belong to an "archaic" church that is already 3,000 years old. 

RELATED: CBCP head vouches for integrity of Bishop David amid Duterte's tirades

POPE FRANCIS

RODRIGO DUTERTE

WAR ON DRUGS

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