Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Caloocan, the Philippines, has expressed dismay that he has been unable to protect his flock from “wolves”.
He was speaking after masked men shot dead a 27-year-old widow who had been helping bereaved families whose loved ones had been killed in the country’s drugs war.
Bishop David, whose flock consists of more than a million Catholics in Caloocan, the country’s fourth city, said his diocese had become a “killing field”.
“Today, in utter shame and frustration, I declare I have not been a good shepherd to my flock,” he said at a Mass for a conference on new evangelisation in Manila.
“The wolves, they have been prowling the streets and alleys of Caloocan, Malabon, and Navotas for almost two years now. They have killed hundreds already, and I am unable to protect them with my life.
“I will bow in shame if the Good Shepherd will denounce me as a mere hireling who remains very safe and very secure, who can get a good night’s sleep in his warm bed while his sheep are being slaughtered. And this is what I was saying in tears to myself last night.”
The bishop recalled that Jennifer Taborada, who was murdered on Wednesday, had been leading a support group for the families of victims of extrajudicial killings.
He alleged police could have intervened to stop her killing but appeared to choose not to.
A witness, he said, told him the killers “stayed for more than three hours” and, after her murder, went on to kill Alvin Teng, 36, a few streets away.
He said Taborada had applied for a scholarship for her two children a few months ago.
“At that time I remember how she narrated her husband’s death, how Ryan was mutilated by the killers. He had to be abducted and tortured first. They gouged his eyes and cut off his private parts.”
“Now her two little children aged five and seven, named Princess and Prince, are complete orphans,” Bishop David said.
According to Human Rights Watch, more than 12,000 have been killed in President Rodrigo Duterte’s “drugs war”. At least 2,500 of these are attributed to the country’s police.
Earlier this week the Philippines’ bishops called for three days of fasting, prayer and penance. In their message they said they wanted to “invoke God’s mercy and justice on those who have blasphemed God’s Holy Name, those who slander and bear false witness, and those who commit murder or justify murder as a means for fighting criminality in our country.”