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It’s 5 o’clock on a Sunday morning. The sun’s not yet up, but the early mass at Santo Nino de Tondo Church is bursting with people, every pew packed, with hundreds more standing in the aisles as Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo delivers his sermon.
The church is in Tondo, one of Manila’s most densely populated and poorest neighborhoods — one that has figured prominently in President Duterte’s bloody war on drugs.
That war has claimed more than 7,500 lives in the past eight months. And in February, it prompted the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines to issue a rare pastoral letter — read at churches like this one — condemning the death toll, calling the drug war a “reign of terror” aimed largely at the poor.
It was a direct challenge to a president whose popularity remains high despite — or…