Did Pope Francis really endorse President Duterte’s war on drugs?

December 14, 2018 - 7:08 PM
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Pope Francis attends the international meeting of choirs in the Vatican
Pope Francis attends the international meeting of choirs in the Vatican, November 24, 2018. Vatican Media/­Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.

Online articles claiming that Pope Francis endorsed President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration and his bloody drug war turned out to be incorrect following a fact-check by news agencies.

One of these articles was a banner story of The Daily Tribune while the other one came from dubious website Philnetizen. Both were published on December 3.

The quotes that the authors used in these stories were parts of the speech of Pope Francis during a three-day international conference on dealing with drug addiction. This was held in Vatican City and attended by 450 participants.

Fact-checking articles

The story from Philnetizen, a pro-administration website, claimed that the pope gave his blessing to Duterte’s administration for its relentless campaign against illegal narcotics which has claimed the lives of thousands Filipinos.

It said that Pope Francis declared this during a recent conference in Vatican City.

“Kasabay nito ay binasbasan din ni Pope Francis ang mga gobyerno lalo na ang administrasyong Duterte para mabigyan ng buong tapang para labanan ang tinatawag niyang ‘traffickers of death,’ the author of the report stated.

It also used the following quote from Pope Francis: “All of us are called to combat the production, processing and distribution of drugs worldwide. It is the duty and responsibility of governments courageously to undertake this fight against those who deal in death.”

A fact check from Agence France-Presse published December 13 revealed that this was false. The news agency did not find any mention of Duterte or his drug war in news reports, in the pontiff’s speech and in videos of the event.

In the piece on The Daily Tribune, the author claimed that Pope Francis endorsed Duterte’s deadly campaign.

“President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature war on drugs received the strongest temporal endorsement imaginable after Pope Francis said it is the duty of governments to fight drug traffickers who peddle ‘death,’” the report said.

The story titled “Papa Kiko joins Du30 War” also picked the same quote from Pope Francis.

Following its publication, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines criticized it as “brazen twisting of the truth.”

NUJP calls out Daily Tribune for twisted banner storyDec. 8, 2018The National Union calls out the brazen twisting of…

Posted by National Union of Journalists of the Philippines on Saturday, December 8, 2018

“Clearly, this twisted piece of, no, to call it journalism would be an insult to the noble profession, whatever you wish to call it had the imprimatur of the Tribune’s top officers. We leave it to their consciences to come to grips with their reasons for doing so,” its statement read.

Furthermore, the group also denounced the news team for allowing this content to be published in their platform.

What did Pope Francis really say?

According to Vatican News, the event themed “Drugs and Addictions: an Obstacle to Integral Human Development” tackles the global problem of addiction in general and not just with the use of illegal drugs.

In the transcript released by the Holy See, Pope Francis did emphasize the important role of government leaders in the pursuit of those “who deal in death.”

The following message however was not included in the articles.

For Pope Francis, the solution of the Catholic Church to combat addiction is humanism based on the “Gospel of Mercy.”

“Faced with this disturbing scenario, the Church senses the urgent need to create in today’s world a form of humanism capable of restoring the human person to the center of social, economic and cultural life: humanism grounded in the “Gospel of Mercy,” the pontiff said.

“There the disciples of Jesus find the inspiration for a pastoral action that can prove truly effective in alleviating, caring for and healing the immense suffering associated with different kinds of addiction present in our world. In a throwaway society, God discards no one; for him no one is irredeemable!” he added.

Ties with the church still sour

Duterte surprisingly made a positive statement toward Pope Francis during the unveiling of the marker of Mella Hotel in Las Piñas city.

“This pope now, he’s progressive. I believe in him. I salute him,” he said in Filipino.

This was a 180-degree turn from his opinion of the Holy Father in 2015 when he cursed him during the latter’s first papal visit in the Philippines. Then mayor of Davao city blamed Pope Francis for the severe traffic he had experienced due to road closures.