I am on my way home now from the Philippines.  When I return, some of my friends will ask me how Filipinos feel about President Duterte’s brutal “war on drugs”.  I realize I won’t have very much to say.  A two week stay is too short to really understand a complex issue, though it is always tempting to become an instant expert.

I can say that some friends who voted for Duterte wish they had not.  The Catholic Church has come out strongly against the indiscriminate killing of suspected drug dealers and users, most of them poor people.  President Duterte has attacked the Church for this stand.  Many Filipinos feel that Duterte has made their country safer and still support him.  Much more I cannot say.

As we drove out of La Carlota on our way to the city of Kabankalan, we passed a large group of heavily armed soldiers lining the road.  A group of men in blue Tshirts were gathered in a field on one side of the road.  The fields we drove past were posted with signs that declared the land off limits to those men, members of a farmer’s group.

Our driver explained that 6,000 hectares (more than 12,000 acres) in this region belong to the Cojuangcos, the wealthy and land rich family to which former presidents Cory and Noynoy Aquino belong.  The struggle to redistribute land under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, signed by Cory Aquino on June 10, 1988, has targeted the holdings of the Cojuangco family and others in the landed oligarchy.

A Father Rodrigo Anoran of the Philippine Independent Church (also called the Aglipayan Church) has been in the forefront of this struggle for many years.  (The Aglipayan Church is an offshoot of the Catholic Church that does not recognize the authority of the Pope, allows its priests to marry and is found only in the Philippines.)

Our guide told us that Anoran is the ringleader of the protest we saw:  the soldiers were there to prevent the men in blue Tshirts from occupying the land of the Cojuangcos.  In his opinion, Father Anoran is up to no good.  The men trying to take the land do not even work on the hacienda of the Cojuangcos, he said, but have been imported from the mountains and are being taken advantage of by Father Anoran and others on the left.

Last year I wrote about the social justice movement in the Catholic Church, after we visited our relative Father Jose Cadungon:


The social justice issues that Father Jose and so many others worked and sacrificed for will not go away as long as fabulous wealth exists right next to tremendous poverty.  It was very tempting for me to jump to judgement about what was happening in the fields we drove through.  Then I realized that I really know so little.  My short stay can only raise questions.

For some background on the sugar industry on Negros,


And here is a clipping from 2003 that I found about Father Anoran: