Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has broken the fifth of the Ten Commandments, “Thou shall not kill.” Now he believes he’s going to hell for his vicious crackdown on the drug trade, which has left more then 7,000 people dead in the past seven months.
Since taking office in June 2016, Duterte has initiated and completely supported the killing of purported drug dealers and addicts by uniformed police and masked paramilitary gunmen as a way to stop crime. Over the weekend, he invited other Catholics in the country who support his crackdown to join him in hell.
“You Catholics, if you believe in your priests and bishops, you stay with them. If you want to go to heaven, then go to them,” he said in a press briefing. “Now, if you want to end drugs … I will go to hell. Come join me.”
Duterte is known for his blunt comments and strong personality. He previously cited Hitler as a positive role model and admitted to personally killing criminal suspects when he was mayor of his home city of Davao.
Duterte’s comments came in response to the Philippine Catholic Church’s condemnation of his war on drugs. Reuters reported that a pastoral letter read in congregations across the country Sunday “said it was disturbing that many people in the majority Catholic nation were indifferent to the killings, or even approved of them.” The letter specifically called Duterte’s drug war a “reign of terror.”
Despite the tough words, the Catholic Church itself has been slow to condemn the killings occurring in the Philippines’ poorest neighborhoods. The letter is the first official response, as reported by the Washington Post.
The country’s Catholic Church isn’t the first to criticize the president. Philippine Sen. Leila De Lima has called for Duterte’s impeachment. Former United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the extrajudicial killings in June 2016 when he was still the secretary general, saying they were “illegal and a breach of fundamental rights and freedoms.” The International Criminal Court has even said it’s watching for signs of Duterte’s officials “ordering, requesting, encouraging or contributing” to crimes against humanity.
Amnesty International also recently released a report confirming that a vast majority of killings have been unlawful extrajudicial executions and that most drug-related killings victims were poor and lived in urban areas. On average, 34 people have been killed every day under Duterte’s presidency by police officers or other gunmen.
Duterte has also recently butted heads with the Catholic Church on contraceptive issues. In January, the president signed an executive order that would give 6 million women free, government-distributed contraception and reproductive health services. The executive order calls for the immediate enforcement of the 2012 law expanding access to contraception and health services. The law has yet to be broadly enforced in part because of the Catholic Church’s efforts to block it.
Though the Catholic Church came out against that executive order, it was unable to stop it. The country’s Catholic leadership may not have any more luck persuading Duterte to abandon his personal war.