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AP Photo/Aaron Favila
World News

Catholic Church unsure how to tackle Philippines drugs killings

by Hannah Tooley

Catholic priests are scared and unsure about how to speak out against the war on drugs killings ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte, according to priests there.

Speaking to Reuters, more than a dozen clergymen in the Catholic nation said they did not know how to stand up to the killings.

Mr Duterte took to power in June and has pursued a tough policy of killing drug dealers and users, a policy that has received much popular support.

So far almost 4,000 people have been killed by police and suspected vigilantes in his war on drugs.

One priest, in the north of the capital Manila, said that opposing the war "in some locations becomes a dangerous job."

Fr Luciano Felloni said at least 30 people, including a child and a pregnant woman, have been killed in his neighbourhood, where he had been setting up a rehabilitation centre for drug users.

He said: "There is a lot of fear because the way people have been killed is vigilante-style so anyone could become a target ... There is no way of protecting yourself."

Duterte said he would not stop the campaign after he was criticised by both the United Nations and the USA.

He said: "If I stop, the next generation would be lost."

The Philippines has the third-largest population of Catholics globally, it accounts for more than half of Asia's roughly 148 million Catholics.

Another priest, Fr Francis Lucas said the Philippines is undergoing a "moral crisis".

"Why are all of these killings happening?

"You have to love and care for one another."

He has openly opposed the killings in his sermons but also said that it was unfair to expect the Church to take on the president, who has overwhelming support, when other bodies do not act.

Speaking anonymously a Vatican official said the body was following the situation in the Philippines.

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