Archbishop Villegas, 3 priests get death threats
Updated @ 7:32 p.m., March 11, 2019, to add more quotes
MANILA, Philippines — Apart from Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas and three priests have also received death threats.
The priests themselves — Fathers Flavie Villanueva, Robert Reyes, and Albert Alejo — made this revelation on Monday at a press conference held at the St. Vincent School of Theology on Tandang Sora Avenue in Quezon City.
“Aaminin ko po na lumabas po kami dahil may takot din kami,” Alejo said. “Nananawagan kami sa mga utak, sa mga ulo, sa mga pasimuno ng pagpatay, itigil na po natin ’yan. Itigil na ninyo ang mga nakawilihan ninyong negosyo.”
[I admit that we came out with this because we feel some fear. We are calling on the brains, the head, the masterminds of the killings to stop it. Stop doing this business that you’ve come to enjoy.]
Alejo presented some excerpts from the death threats that he, David, and Villegas had received.
Alejo also said that, compared to other people, they considered themselves still lucky to receive such warnings against their lives.
Villanueva also showed CCTV footage showing a masked man walking back and forth outside his office in Santa Cruz, Manila.
Despite the threats, however, Villanueva said police should give residents of poor areas more protection against illegal drugs instead of them.
“Mas madaming sigurong dapat bantayan ang pulis — 27,000 to 30,000 na ang pinatay, eh. Nasaan ang pulis doon?” Villanueva said.
[The police need to look after so many others – with 27,000 to 30,000 having been killed. Where were the police then?]
“Sana kung tapat at nais magtanggol ng buhay ang kapulisan, nandoon sa squatter kung saan laganap at nakakalat ang mga drug list. Doon dapat sana italaga ang mga pulis na matitino, bantayan ang mahihirap imbes na kami,” he added.
[If the police are sincere in wanting to protect lives, they should be in the squatters’ areas where many are in the drug list. I hope that’s where honest police officers are assigned to look after the poor instead of us.]
According to Reyes, it has been awhile since the three of them had talked about the issue.
Reyes said that they would not be silenced by the text messages sent to them as the only person they feared was God.
“Hindi pananahimik, kundi ang malinaw, mahinahon, at matapang na pamamahayag at paninindigan. Itigil na ang pananakot. Itigil na ang pagpatay,” he said.
[We prefer not silence but a clear, calm, and courageous declaration and a firm stand. Stop the threats. Stop the killings.]
“Matagal namin pinagtalunang tatlo kung kami ay lalantad o hindi kasi pwedeng baliwalain ito. Pwedeng maging iba ang balita kasi hindi namin kontrolado kung ano ang lalabas mamaya o bukas,” Reyes said. “Pero nanindigan kami: Kaming tatlo ay lalantad at magsasalita. At sasabihin namin: ‘Digong, hindi kami takot sa’yo. Isa lang ang pangingilagan namin — ang Panginoong Diyos.’”
[The three of us discussed this at length — whether we would come out or not — because this could be disregarded. The news may come out differently because we have no control over what will come out later or tomorrow. But we took a stand: The three of us would bare ourselves and speak. And we will say: “Digong, we’re not afraid of you. We bow to only one being — the Lord God.]
Digong is a nickname of President Rodrigo Duterte, who had, on several occasions, verbally attacked the Catholic Church clergy — in one speech even calling its members useless and urging people to kill them.
But he later he reversed his position, warning people not to hurt the clergy or they would have to reckon with him.
In Monday’s press conference, Reyes called on the Duterte administration to stop the killings, as they had not silenced those who oppose it.
The three priests then urged the public to continue to defend their rights and stand against violence and violations of human rights.
They also called on Catholics to unite to ensure peace and order in their communities.
“Itong ginagawa namin na ito ay hindi lang para sa aming tatlo,” Reyes said. “Kami ay nanawagan sa lahat ng paring Pilipino, paring Katoliko, lahat ng pastor na Pilipino: Huwag tayong matakot. Ang proteksyon natin ay pag tayo ay nagsalita — proteksyon natin kapag binitin ang mukha at blinur at hindi mo alam kung sino ang nagsasalita.”
[What we are doing now is not just for the three of us. We are calling on all Filipino priests, Catholic priests, all Filipino pastors: Don’t be afraid. We can protect ourselves when we speak by having our faces blurrred so that nobody knows who’s speaking.]
“Nananawagan kami sa buong Simbahan: Pagtulungtulungan na lang natin na gawing mapayapa, mapanatag ang sambayanan nang hindi umaasa lamang sa kapulisan,” he added.
[We are calling on the entire Church: Let us help each other to make our nation peaceful, calm and not merely rely on the police.] /atm
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