Rodrigo Duterte, President of the Philippines, has brutally fulfilled his campaign promises to slaughter those accused of buying or selling drugs, while encouraging vigilante justice against all suspects.
This new policy has claimed thousands of lives, while allowing ordinary civilians to get away with murder based on a grievance, a misunderstanding, or a crime with a relatively mild sentence in America.
In most democracies, such a wanton disregard for the rights and lives of one’s own people would be career-ending. However, Duterte ran on these promises and continues to enjoy widespread support from the electorate. His opponents are divided and far less popular. Moreover, pollsters analyzed why the people of the Philippines support Duterte. Their conclusions were deeply disturbing. The electorate was barely supportive of Duterte on some issues. At the same time, a massive majority strongly supported his brutal policy against drug suspects. While many expressed concerns about Duterte’s methods, they still backed the policy.
Other government institutions, political parties, and human decency failed to check Duterte. There is one institution, however, that has refused to remain silent: The Catholic Church.
There is a reason why power-centralizing nationalists have always feared the Catholic Church. Regardless of the pressure applied, faithful Catholics refuse to sacrifice their belief in human dignity. The Catholic Clergy has their peers in other countries and Pope Francis in Rome to look to for support and guidance. After local governments and other intermediary institutions are destroyed, the Catholic Church continues to stand between government and people.
The Catholic Response to Duterte
The members of the Warsaw Pact, the government of Mexico, the Spanish Republicans, Otto Von Bismarck, and many others have made the mistake of trying to bend the Church to their will. Communism fell as the Polish Pope inspired Poland and Eastern Europe to rise up. Mexico’s government barely survived a vicious revolution and eventually repealed its laws, while Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass there before this was legal. Republican damage to churches and statues, murders of nuns and priests, and anti-Catholic rhetoric, bound Catholics to the ultimately victorious Franco. Otto Von Bismarck ended his Kulturkampf when the Catholic Church refused to bend.
In the Philippines, the Catholic Church stands between the vulnerable and Duterte. Bishop Jose Oliveros, along with many others, has spoken out against the drug war and the extra-judicial murders. Pope Francis has also joined these voices, causing Duterte to condemn the Pope as a “son of a whore“. Duterte also routinely lashes out against the local Catholic clergy, clearly frustrated by an independent institution beyond his control. Duterte has attempted to damage the Church’s credibility by focusing on scandals and corruption within the local Church.
The people of the Philippines are overwhelmingly Catholic, a fact that will limit the president’s actions against the Church. Americans who love their liberty and intermediary institutions, as well as Catholics around the world, should strongly support the Catholic Church in the Philippines. They are willing to stand up for life and for their parishioners in the face of massive government pressure. If anyone eventually defeats Duterte, they will need the help of a Church untainted by government control. The Church is the greatest, perhaps the only, opposition party against this madness.