Archbishop Villegas did not identify the officers. A church official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said they claimed to have taken part directly in Mr. Duterte’s drug crackdown.

That campaign has had widespread support in the Philippines since Mr. Duterte took office last year, but the death of the teenager, Kian Loyd delos Santos, in August has galvanized opposition to it. Catholic churches have been tolling their bells in a daily act of remembrance for those killed in the drug campaign.

The police said Mr. delos Santos had been armed and had fought with officers, but surveillance footage and other evidence contradicted their account.


Lina Gabriel at the wake last month of her 14-year-old son, who is believed to have been a victim of the antidrug crackdown, in Cainta City.

Jes Aznar/Getty Images

Two other teenagers were killed by the police soon after Mr. delos Santos was, and in the face of the outcry, Mr. Duterte has stopped making broad promises of impunity for officers who kill suspects while carrying out the antidrug campaign. He has said that he will not lift a finger to protect a police officer who commits murder.

A survey released last week by a Philippine research institute, Social Weather Stations, found that more than half of Filipinos believed that many of those killed by the police during the antidrug campaign had not resisted arrest. The survey was taken before the killing of Mr. delos Santos.

On Monday, Archbishop Villegas said the church would not turn the officers over to the government if they preferred to avail themselves of the church’s protection — apparently referring to a dispute between the government and an opposition lawmaker over the custody of witnesses to Mr. delos Santos’s killing.

He also promised that the church would not seek to influence the officers. “If such law enforcers wish to testify, then the Catholic Church will see to it that they are in no way induced to speak, to disclose nor to make allegations by any member of the clergy or the hierarchy,” the archbishop wrote.


Protesters in Manilla last month denounced President Rodrigo Duterte and his crackdown on drugs.

Noel Celis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Testimony implicating Mr. Duterte in extrajudicial killings would not be unprecedented. Two men said in Senate testimony this year that they belonged to an assassination squad overseen by Mr. Duterte when he was a mayor in the southern Philippines. A lawyer who represents them has filed a complaint at the International Criminal Court in The Hague accusing Mr. Duterte of mass murder.

Mr. Duterte was traveling in the southern Philippines on Monday and had no public response to the archbishop’s comments. The president has clashed with church leaders before, once referring to them as “sons of bitches.”

The church played a significant role in the downfall of two past Philippine leaders: Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, and Joseph Estrada in 2001. But the demonstrations against Mr. Duterte have been much smaller, an indication of the extent to which his crackdown has a measure of popular support.

At a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council last week in Geneva, the United States and 38 other countries issued a joint statement of concern about “the thousands of killings and climate of impunity associated with the war on drugs” in the Philippines. The statement called on the government to allow a special rapporteur on extrajudicial and summary killings to visit the country.

A spokesman for Mr. Duterte, Ernesto Abella, hit back Monday at what he called “self-styled watchdogs” of human rights.

“We respect the rights of all, including the extremely critical, to freely express their opinion of the government,” he said, but added that the Philippines “will call out attempts to use it seemingly to advance certain interests” or political agendas.

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