The bishops of the Philippines have reiterated their horror at the targeted killing of drug dealers across the country, saying that all attacks on human life “cry to heaven for divine justice”.

Their message came after a former Filipino militiaman testified at a televised senate inquiry that he had heard Rodrigo Duterte, now the country’s president, directly order killings of criminals and opponents during his time as mayor of Davao.

Edgar Matobato said that he himself had carried out about 50 deadly assaults as an assassin but about 1,000 were thought to have been carried out in total.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the bishops’ conference, said in a message released on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows: “Human dignity must always be protected, and the nobility of every human person continues to shine despite the scars of the crime and sin.”

He said: “Drug addicts are sick brethren in need of healing … deserving of new life, not death. They are patients begging for recovery … They may have behaved as scum and rubbish, but the saving of love of Jesus Christ is first and foremost for them. No man or woman is ever so unworthy of God’s love.”

The archbishop said that drug dealers deserved a second chance: “Dead in their addictions, ‘living dead’ in the eyes of an unforgiving world, we bid our addicted brethren to rise up and live again.”

​How to continue reading…

This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week

The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection