Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has commended the exemplary courage and steadfast commitment of three Filipino priests in fighting tyranny and in advancing the cause of human rights and democracy in the country amid threats to their lives.
In a statement issued in time for the observance of the Day of Valor (April 9) and Palm Sunday (April 14), De Lima said the courage and sacrifices of these three priests and known drug war critics should be remembered on these two important occasions.
“Both events remind us that we are here today because there are those who willingly sacrificed themselves, and who knowingly walked towards certain danger, pain and death, not for any self-serving motives, [b]ut simply because mankind needed them to do the right thing: to save humanity from both earthly danger and spiritual damnation,” she said in her recent Dispatch from Crame No. 502.
“I am blessed to know of three brave souls who are fighting to deliver Filipinos from both earthly dangers and spiritual damnation, namely, Fr. Robert Reyes, Fr. Albert Alejo a.k.a. “Paring Bert”, and Fr. Flavie Villanueva, all of whom I count as my foremost spiritual advisers and personal friends,” she added.
While the Day of Valor celebrates the heroism of the Filipino soldiers who fought in the Philippines in World War II, the observance of Palm Sunday on April 14 marks the beginning of the culmination of Jesus Christ’s great suffering to save humanity.
Frs. Alejo, Villanueva and Reyes, who recently received death threats from unknown people, made their mark for fearlessly and tirelessly speaking out against the present administration’s sick policies, including extrajudicial killings, and standing up for drug war victims.
De Lima, also a critic of the administration’s murderous policies who has been unjustly detained for more than two years now, said the three priests represent the “most courageous among the clergy” and “most faithful to the actions of Jesus Christ.”
“They speak the truth, defend the defenseless and bring messages of love and hope to ailing souls, even when doing so earns them the ire of powerful men; even if they and, in one abhorrent incident, even their mother are threatened,” she said.
“They continue to impart their own personal brand of courage even in the face of explicit threats to their lives. Just like the great Filipino soldiers and Jesus Christ, they know what needs to be done in order to fight the rise of evil,” she added.
De Lima said Fr. Reyes represents visible and unabashed “courage that feeds the spirit” while Fr. Alejo represents the wise and intellectual aspect of courage for his talent to transform painful experiences into simple teaching, “the courage that feeds the mind.”
Meanwhile, De Lima said Fr. Villanueva represents compassionate and empathetic courage for his ability to use his personal experiences to deeply connect with EJK victims on a deeply personal level of commitment, “the courage that feeds the heart.”
In February 2018, De Lima filed Senate Bill No. 1699, also known as Human Rights Defenders Bill, which seeks to institutionalize and enforce state obligations for the protection of human rights defenders. Last month, De Lima call for renewed determination and concerted efforts from the Filipino people to defend the priests and their causes and rally behind their fight against human rights abuses and extrajudicial killings under the government.