Duterte’s war on drugs: Filipinos weigh in with mixed reviews

Images from the Philippines' war on drugs. (CNS layout/Images by Reauters, EPA)

Images from the Philippines’ war on drugs. (CNS layout/Images by Reauters, EPA)

By Tyler Orsburn

Filipino American History Month is October in the United States. Feelings between the Philippines and the United States have been good for a long time, although the U.S. military presence has been an ongoing source of tension among some Filipinos.

Legend has it when U.S. troops liberated the mostly Catholic country from Japanese occupation during World War II, locals swapped their home-cooked meals for GI MREs. This simple gesture of camaraderie may have been the beginning of Filipinos’ legendary fascination with corned beef and canned meats.

Today, another topic of conversation among Filipinos in and outside the country is President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, and several shared their thoughts with Catholic News Service. Reuters reported Oct. 17 that Philippines police killed nearly 2,300 people since June 30, with another 1,300 murders by vigilantes.

Ariel Turalio, a small-business owner in Antipolo, supports Duterte’s drug policy. He told CNS his country has a massive drug addiction problem and that people want to earn easy money by pushing drugs.

“Filipinos are lucky to have a president who has the will to fight illegal drugs,” he wrote. “What will become of future generations if everyone is addicted to drugs?”

Jesuit Father Joel Tabora in Mindanao echoed those sentiments.

An alleged drug user is arrested during a police operation against illegal drugs in Manila Oct. 6.(CNS photo/Mark R. Cristino, EPA)

An alleged drug user is arrested during a police operation against illegal drugs in Manila Oct. 6.(CNS photo/Mark R. Cristino, EPA)

“Are the means unnecessarily illegitimate?” he asked the British news agency Reuters from Davao, where Duterte was mayor for 22 years. “People are dying, yes, but on the other hand, millions of people are being helped.”

Many islanders think like Turalio and the Catholic priest. According to a recent survey, Reuters reports, Duterte and his drug war command a 76 percent satisfaction rating.

But for those old enough to remember President Ferdinand E. Marcos and the 1970s, martial law may be just around Duterte’s domestic policy corner.

“Filipinos’ compassionate culture is now being corrupted by Duterte’s counterfeit war on drugs, which I suspect is just a prelude or dress rehearsal to a more violent form of martial law,” a parishioner at Santisima Trinidad Catholic Church in Manila told CNS. He said his father was incarcerated during martial law in the 1970s and ’80s, and that he will oppose it through peaceful means when it returns.

“I’m against extrajudicial killings,” wrote a former Catholic college student from Sibuyan Island. She said she believes people have the right to defend themselves through legal matters.

Back in Seattle, Washington, an 84-year-old Filipino-American is baffled by what’s going on in her motherland.

“Like most of my peers I am appalled with the way the Philippine president has dealt with the drug problem in his country,” said Dorothy Laigo Cordova, who, with her late husband, founded the Filipino American National Historical Society. “(I) seem to see a parallel with Duterte and other dictatorial leaders. He fails to realize that the Philippines needs the U.S. to help with the growing encroachment by China in the China Sea.”

On Oct. 19, the Philippine president, accompanied by hundreds of business leaders, was in Beijing to discuss what he called a new commercial alliance.

Pop art pope wins graffiti game of peace

UPDATE: After being up less than half the day, the city’s waste collectors came to scrape everything off. Like two years ago, spray paint graffiti, trash and unsanitary mementos of a canine kind remain…

Screengrab from Twitter feed of Rome-based journalist @FrancoisVayne

Screengrab from Twitter feed of Rome-based journalist @FrancoisVayne

VATICAN CITY — In a clandestine graffiti game of Tic-Tac-Toe, an artistic rendition of Pope Francis turns the O’s into peace signs and makes the win while a Swiss Guard acts as the lookout.

A removable paper art piece by Rome artist Mauro Pallotta. (CNS photo/ Carol Glatz)

A removable paper art piece in the “Borgo” historic neighborhood near the Vatican by Rome artist Mauro Pallotta. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

Mauro Pallotta, who signs his work, “Maupal,” pasted his latest creation to a corner store wall near the Vatican today in the historic neighborhood of “the Borgo.”

The Rome-born artist draws and paints removable street art onto paper that he then glues to building walls with a water-based adhesive in an effort to display street art in a way that doesn’t damage the buildings that become his canvas.

"Super Pope" by Mauro Pallotta appeared briefly near the Vatican in January 2014. (CNS photo/Robert Duncan)

“Super Pope” by Mauro Pallotta appeared briefly near the Vatican in January 2014. (CNS photo/Robert Duncan)

The easy removal of his works, however, meant an early demise for his “Super Pope” piece from 2014.

Affixed in the same “Borgo” neighborhood on a side street, that wall art only lasted a few days when city “decorum police” had it peeled off and repainted the wall. Its mere three-day “exhibition” still attracted a large amount of international attention.


p.s. Can you find the “mistake” in the new piece? While lots of passersby praised the work, one older gentleman immediately saw an anomaly that I didn’t catch until he mentioned it.



Poet and pope — or laureate and saint

Pope John Paul II greets American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan in 1997. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via EPA)

St. John Paul II greets American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan in 1997. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via EPA)

So Bob Dylan has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Some folks would have much preferred someone else had won. To others, it’s a welcome recognition of his lyric gifts.

Nineteen years ago, Catholic New Service ran a guest commentary by Ivan Kubista, then editor of The Courier, the newspaper of the Diocese of Winona, Minnesota, who recalled his college days when he and Dylan were classmates. Kubista also was a struggling folk singer trying to land a few gigs to pay for college tuition. He sometimes shared a stage with Dylan in their native Minnesota. When Dylan announced he was dropping out of school to head to the West Coast to get a job as a backup musician, Kubista tried to discourage him. A couple of years later Dylan released an album of his own songs. “It was already apparent to me, if not to the rest of the world, that Bob’s genius was in his compositions, not his performing,” Kubista noted.

He described following Dylan’s career over the years and had high praise for his lyrics at least: “He has become a poet of the highest caliber, articulating the human condition with a clarity unmatched by any of his peers.”

Kubista’s reflections came on the eve of Dylan performing before St. John Paul II — and about 350,000 of the pope’s closest friends — at a concert in Bologna, Italy, as part of an Italian eucharistic congress in 1997. It was heralded as the first rock concert ever attended by the pope, or any pope for that matter. There was a to-do over the appropriateness of Dylan being invited to perform at a religious gathering, but it never reached the controversy of Dylan “going electric” at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.

Dylan was invited because his music was “true and beautiful” and “the church welcomes whatever is true and beautiful and good,” said Msgr. Ernesto Vecchi, a vicar of the archdiocese. Dylan sang “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” and “Forever Young” in his set, and shook St. John Paul’s hand. The pope acknowledged the true of the refrain of one Dylan staple, “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.” “Not, however, in the wind that blows everything away into nothingness,” he said, “but in the wind that is the breath and voice of the Spirit, the voice that calls and says, ‘Come!'”

Then there was Dylan’s “born-again” period. Sometimes people turn to religion when they’ve reached a low ebb. His 1978 studio album, “Street-Legal,” was poor compared to the  masterwork “Blood on the Tracks” just three years prior, and his “Live at Budokan” followup was nearly unlistenable. But then comes a new Dylan, and his “Slow Train Coming” garnered at least as much debate as it did sales, reaching No. 3 on the U.S. charts and gaining platinum status. “Saved,” which mined the same field of Christian rock,” didn’t fare as well, and “Shot of Love” sold even fewer copies.

But “Infidels” got Dylan back to gold-record status. Although he didn’t do such overtly Christian albums again, you could still see elements of faith every now and again in his subsequent work.





Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, Oct. 16, 2016

"All Scripture is inspired by God ... so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work." -- 2 Timothy 3:16-17

“All Scripture is inspired by God … so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” — 2 Timothy 3:16-17


Oct. 16, Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

1) Exodus 17:8-13

Psalms 121:1-8

2) 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2

Gospel: Luke 18:1-8


By Sharon K. Perkins
Catholic News Service

There’s a saying that I hear fairly frequently these days, especially in response to someone who is asked to take on a ministry or mission for which he or she feels unprepared: “God doesn’t call the equipped; he equips the called.”

In other words, we can usually expect to feel inadequate and assume that when God invites, the “yes” comes before the preparation. For most people this is a scary proposition.

Today’s readings give some insight into how God alleviates those fears that come with saying “yes” — and how he equips us to become fully engaged in the work he gives us to do — much like Joshua unhesitatingly engaging Amalek and his armies in battle.

First, we must always recognize that we’re not alone, but that “our help is from the Lord,” the very creator of heaven and earth. Lifting our eyes to him when we’re in trouble, or even long before we sense trouble, is an exercise of trust that becomes habitual with practice.

A sure way of becoming “equipped for every good work” is through the consistent learning and application of sacred Scripture. A surprisingly small percentage of Catholic adults are familiar with the Bible, and yet we have so many excellent resources at our disposal to help us overcome our ignorance that there’s really no excuse for remaining uninformed.

Scripture is inspired by the very breath of God so that we can trust it to form us toward competency.

Finally, the readings today emphasize the importance of persistence in proclaiming the word “whether it is convenient or inconvenient.” Tenacity in the face of difficulty and discouragement, grounded in the confidence that God always desires to sustain us, is simply what faith in action looks like. It’s what kept Joshua fighting Amalek all the way to a victory, and it’s what kept the persistent widow petitioning the judge until he delivered a decision on her behalf.

God is asking us to be his partners in the work of salvation. Are you willing to become equipped for his work?


Have you ever been asked to do something for which you have felt unprepared, even while knowing it was the right thing to do? How has knowledge of Scripture equipped you for being a disciple of Christ?

I knew him when

Cardinal-designate Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis. (Photo/Sean Gallagher, The Criterion) See US-CARDINALS-TOBIN Oct. 10, 2016.

Cardinal-designate Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis. (Photo/Sean Gallagher, The Criterion)

It appears in high school yearbooks at some point — the grateful appreciation from a classmate who writes, “When you’re a (fill in the blank) I’ll be able to say ‘I knew him when…'”

Now, I can say the same about Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis, who was chosen Oct. 9 by Pope Francis to join the College of Cardinals. Not that Cardinal-designate Tobin and I went to high school together. But I really did know him when.

The setting: The parish center (i.e., former convent) of St. Raymond of Pennafort Church in Detroit in the early 1980s — possibly 1982. I was there making a weekend retreat called “Exercise in Christian Living” for young adults in college or a bit older. I had been invited to bring my guitar, so I did. Apparently, the same invitation was issued to my friend Pat. At the time, the two of us were preparing for our annual St. Patrick’s Day set of Irish music. Taking a cue from the Blues Brothers, who were big a few years before, I billed us as the Blarney Brothers. But we had some practicing to do.

We carved out some time in the parish center basement, where then-Redemptorist Father Tobin, then assigned to Holy Redeemer Parish in Detroit, was hearing confessions of retreat participants. One song in our set that needed work was Tommy Makem’s classic “Four Green Fields,” an allegorical tale of the split between the majority-Catholic Republic of Ireland and the Protestant-majority Northern Ireland, still part of the United Kingdom. But knowing that there were confessions nearby, we had to keep it quiet. And so we did.

Not quiet enough, apparently. Before the night was over, he saw us with our guitars and said, “Here I am hearing confessions, and then I can hear ‘Four Green Fields’ over it all. I thought maybe I was already in heaven.” Hey, how were we to know the Detroit-born priest was not only a Redemptorist, but Irish, too?

It was a charming moment, but was quickly stored away in my brain until I noticed in 1997 a CNS story that said he had been elected superior general of the Redemptorists. I was doubly impressed, since I thought that such leaders tend to come from Europe and not Detroit — the Galilee of our time — and at only 45 years of age.

Then Father Tobin became archbishop of Indianapolis in 2012. Then I started thinking, wow. And that wow is minimal compared to last Sunday’s news.

Last year, I had an opportunity to interview Archbishop Tobin on an entirely unrelated topic. Once I had wrapped up the interview, I related the story of “Four Green Fields” on the retreat. And he remembered! Or at least he said he did.

I don’t have much occasion to break out into Irish tunes these days, but maybe I’ll pull out the guitar tonight, for old times’ sake.


Processing images of poverty, crime and war

Migrants from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador are seen in the back of a Mexican police vehicle in this 2014 file photo. (CNS photo/Miguel Sierra, EPA)

Migrants from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador are seen in the back of a Mexican police vehicle in this 2014 file photo. (CNS photo/Miguel Sierra, EPA)

Editor’s Note: Judith Sudilovsky is participating in an Egan Fellowship awarded by Catholic Relief Services.

By Judith Sudilovsky

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — I scroll down my Facebook feed trying to decompress after an intense first day in Honduras.

Some of the interviews we have had today as CRS Eileen Egan Fellows have been emotionally draining for me.

This morning Catholic journalist Janeth Lagos of Fides described a visit to the Guatemalan-Honduran border 2 years ago to meet a busload of returning migrants sent back by the Mexican government, never having made it across the border to the U.S. She made it a point to explain that she does not use the word “deported” in order to protect the dignity and self-esteem of those migrants who are sent back to their country of origin. Among those on the bus who made the 20-hour-ride from the U.S.-Mexican border, across Guatemala to the Honduran border was a little boy — she put his age at 3 years old — curled up alone on one of the seats sleeping from exhaustion. He was dressed in a little white T-shirt. Next to him, she said, was the bag with a water bottle and sandwich distributed to the migrants for the ride.

No adult took responsibility for the child. There was no way of knowing who he was, if his mother or father died along the way as they sought a better life, or if he was sent by grandparents or other relatives with a “coyote” smuggler to join his parents in the U.S. But what was clear was that someone along the Mexican border dealing with migrants thought it was OK to put this boy on the bus alone.

The image of that boy curled up, abandoned, in his seat haunts me as, later in the day, we went into one of the sprawling “colonias” that have invaded the city, spreading up the sides of the mountains surrounding the capital city of Tegucigalpa, to interview participants in one of the CRS-sponsored programs.

Details about the program, about the location and about the people will for now not be shared because CRS wants to protect the people interviewed. There will be no pictures of people, either, for the same reason. And there are no pictures of the shantytown because it was too dangerous to take the camera out, even from the car window — which we had to keep rolled down to make sure we were not suspected of being police and to also assure that there was no case of mistaken identity by any possible gunman on motorcycles.

Honduran migrants deported from the United States are seen in Tegucigalpa's international airport in this 2006 file photo. (CNS photo/Gustavo Amador, EPA)

Honduran migrants deported from the United States are seen in Tegucigalpa’s international airport in this 2006 file photo. (CNS photo/Gustavo Amador, EPA)

Last month here one young woman and her family found themselves diving for the floor of their house as a neighbor was gunned down in a gangland murder. It was the fourth such murder in her neighborhood that month.

A young woman has not seen her father since he left for the United States when she was 1. Every month he sends back money allowing her to study. She has given up on believing his promise that he will come back to see her.

Another young mother, now also a widow, tries to comes to terms with the separate grizzly murders of her brother-in-law and husband. Sometimes gangs — known as “maras” here — carry out reprisal attacks of unspeakable torture ending in murder because of something a family member did or did not do, or there have been cases of people being killed in a case of mistaken identity.

Last month another 19-year-old student, from the established, normative part of town who had gone out on his first job, disappeared and was found the next day with his hands and feet cut off. The case has already been closed by police for lack of evidence, and the family has been left helpless and stunned at the murder of the young man.

As I scroll through Facebook, one of the first images I see is the bloody face of a young Syrian girl who was taken to a hospital following a bombardment in Aleppo. Another post is a rerun of a 1952 episode of the reality show “It’s Your Life.” It is about the life of a Holocaust survivor who came to the U.S. as a refugee after the war and later married, uniting her with her brother she had not seen since before they were sent to Auschwitz.

So for me at the moment there is no escape from the images of human suffering and destruction caused by poverty, crime and war which exist today just as they existed in the past. But today more than ever, it is too hard to say “We didn’t know.”


Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, Oct. 9, 2016

"He fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him." -- Luke 17:16

“He fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.” — Luke 17:16


Oct. 9, Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) 2 Kings 5:14-17

      Psalm 98:1-4

      2) 2 Timothy 2:8-13

      Gospel: Luke 17:11-19


By Jeff Hedglen
Catholic News Service

I am terrible at sending thank-you notes. If I don’t do it right away it usually doesn’t get done. It is not that I am not thankful; I am truly grateful for the service or gift I have received. I am just forgetful, especially when the next day is filled with more activity and soon the thought of thanking the individual slips from my radar.

My negligence in sending thanks in a note is much like my neglecting to give thanks in my prayer life.

When I teach about how to pray I use an acrostic for the word “pray”:

Praise and thank God.

Repent for your sins.

Ask for what you and those you love need.

Yield to God’s will in your life.

This can be used as a prayer formula or just as a guide to make sure you are, at least from time to time, including all the basic aspects of communication with God in your life of prayer.

I am pretty good at the asking part, and through music, Scripture and Mass I regularly praise God. The examination of conscience and sacrament of reconciliation help me repent of my sins, and I try to always end my petitions with the prayer: “God grant me all of these things, or in your wisdom give me something even better.” This is my way of yielding to the Lord’s right of way in my life.

What I too often miss is thanking God for all he has given me and for answered prayers. Things often play out as they do in this week’s Gospel.

I beg God for help and when he comes through for me, I am happy and go along my merry way glad to have my prayer answered. I tend to be like the nine lepers that do not return to thank God for the blessings that have been showered upon me.

It is not so much that God needs our thanks, but more that we need to thank God to complete the initial request. Just as it is the right thing to do to send a thank-you note to a friend, so it is right to send a thank-you prayer to God for the gifts he has given us.


What are you most thankful to God for? How do you express your gratitude to God?