Philippines Church leaders denounce Duterte regime drugs killings

Anger is rising in the Philippines over the war on drugs initiated by President Rodrigo Duterte, with the country's Catholic bishops denouncing the growing death toll.

More than 12,500 people, many small-time drug users and dealers, have been killed since Duterte took office in June 2016. Police say about 3,500 of those killed were shot by officers in self-defence.

ReutersRelatives and loved ones of Leover Miranda, 39, a drug-related killings victim, hold a streamer calling to stop the continuing rise of killings due to the President Rodrigo Duterte's ruthless war on drugs.

Human rights monitors believe many of the remaining two-thirds were killed by assassins operating with police backing or by police disguised as vigilantes – a charge the police deny.

At least 90 people were shot dead this week, with 32 killed in one day alone in Bulacan province, north of the capital Manila.

On Sunday, dozens of mourners wearing with white T-shirts with the slogan 'Kill drugs, not people', bore the coffin of Leover Miranda to his grave in a Manila cemetery.

Miranda was killed this month in what police said was a drug sting operation but relatives say he was innocent.

Two senior Church leaders, Cardinal Luis Lagle and Archbishop Socrates Villegas, condemned the carnage. Tagle issued a statement read out in services across the capital Manila yesterday that said: 'We knock on the consciences of those who kill even the helpless, especially those who cover their faces, to stop wasting human lives.

'The illegal drug problem should not be reduced to a political or criminal issue. It is a humanitarian concern that affects all of us.'

Villegas called on churches to ring their bells at 8 pm every day to show solidarity.

'The sound of the bells is a wake-up call for a nation that no longer knows how to condole with the bereaved,' and was too 'cowardly' to condemn the violence, he said.

'You shall not kill. That is a sin. That is against the law,' he said in a statement.

Public anger rose last week when police killed a 17-year-old high-school student.

Television channels aired CCTV footage that showed Kian Loyd Delos Santos being carried by two men to a place where his body was later found, raising doubt about an official report that said he was shot because he fired at police.

Some civil society groups and left-wing activists have called for protests increasing anger with the police was evident in social media posts.

Metro Manila police chief Oscar Albayalde said he has suspended the police chief in Caloocan City, where the boy was killed, pending an investigation. Three officers involved in the operation were earlier relieved of duties.

Additional reporting by Reuters.