By Joe Torres
Filipino evangelicals who supported the candidacy of Rodrigo Duterte in 2016 are now condemning killings that have been linked to the president’s all-out war against narcotics.
The two largest non-Catholic church groups in the country exhorted the president and other government leaders “to uphold God’s agenda for the country.”
Leaders of the Philippines for Jesus Movement and the Philippine Council for Evangelical Churches challenged Duterte to honor his commitment to God and the people.
At the 39th anniversary celebration of the Jesus is Lord Church on Oct. 27, church founder and leader Eddie Villanueva expressed “grave concern” over the killings.
He told close to a million followers who attended the event in Manila to “to stand on the tenets of Christian faith” amid the challenges being faced by Filipinos.
Villanueva, who endorsed the candidacy of Duterte in 2016, said he is alarmed at the reported involvement of government officials in the trafficking of narcotics in the country.
He said that even though he supported Duterte’s stance against drugs, “[it] should not be at the expense of the rule of law.”
“No one has the right to take another person’s life,” said the charismatic church leader.
Villanueva’s statement was the strongest he has issued so far against Duterte and his administration.
He said he and his followers voted for Duterte “but the problem [are the] killings right and left.” He said that as a Christian “I can not accept this.”
“I believe in my heart, the president does not know this. These could be abuses of some scalawag members of the police system who decided to impress their superiors,” said Villanueva.
He said some policemen even confessed that they “could not stomach [the killings] and they are planning to resign” from government service.
Villanueva’s Jesus is Lord Church, established in 1978, now claims to have at least five million followers in 60 countries.
The Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, a member of the World Evangelical Alliance, has an estimated 11 million Filipino members in Protestant churches and 210 “para-church organizations.”
In 2016, Villanueva “anointed” Duterte’s presidential ambition and the support of the evangelicals after he promised that he would uphold God’s agenda for the country if he wins the presidency.
In his inaugural speech, the president emphasized that his adherence to due process and rule of law will be “non-compromising.”
A year later, however, human rights groups and Catholic Church leaders have blamed Duterte’s “all-out war” against drugs for the death of close to 12,000 suspected drug users and dealers.
The Philippine National Police claimed only 3,800 were killed in legitimate police anti-narcotics operations. The other cases fell under the category of “deaths under investigation.”