De Lima condemns continuing death threats vs priests

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has denounced the continuing threats on the life of several members of the Catholic clergy who tirelessly speak out against the Duterte administration’s twisted policies, including extrajudicial killings.

De Lima, a known human rights defender, made the statement after Fathers Albert Alejo, Flavie Villanueva and Robert Reyes disclosed that they have been recently receiving death threats through short messaging system (SMS) from unknown people.

“Nakakakilabot at nakakagalit ang mga pananakot na ginagawa ngayon sa ating mga obispo at kaparian. Anong klaseng pagkatao at prinsipyo mayroon ang mga nagbabanta nang masama sa mga alagad ng Diyos?,” she said.

“Ganito ang impluwensya at epektong nagagawa ng mga gaya ni Duterte, na sobra na ang kademonyohang pinapasok sa kaisipan ng mga Pilipino. Binabatikos na nga ang Simbahan, ultimo ang Diyos tinawag pa niyang estupido,” she added.

In a press conference held last March 11, the three priests showed copies of the text messages where unknown senders threatened to kill them, as well as Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas and Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David.

These threats came barely two months after Mr. Duterte encouraged bystanders to steal from wealthy bishops and kill them afterwards, and less than a month after Bishop David, a known drug war critic, confirmed that he was receiving death threats from still-unidentified people since last month.

Alejo, a Jesuit priest, confirmed that he and Fathers Villanueva and Reyes came forward out of fear not only for their lives but also for the lives of other priests who defend human rights at all costs.

Reyes added that their revelation also calls for stronger and united stance against abuses and killings, saying, “Hindi pananahimik, kundi ang malinaw, mahinahon, at matapang na pamamahayag at paninindigan. Itigil na ang pananakot, itigil na ang pagpatay.”

De Lima, the first prominent political prisoner under the Duterte regime, urged Mr. Duterte to “stop the killings now” if he wants priests to stop speaking out against his administration.

“Isa lang naman ang solusyon sa problema ni Duterte. Kung ayaw niyang batikusan siya ng mga alagad ng Diyos, ipatigil na niya ang patayan na siya naman talaga ang tunay na pasimuno. Oras na para gawin niya ang tama at naaayon sa batas,” she said.

“The priests want nothing but to defend the right to life and human dignity of every Filipino, which is incessantly being violated by this evil regime,” she added.

Note that Duterte has repeatedly threatened to kill Catholic clergy who are opposed to his government’s all-out drug war policy that resulted in the thousands of extrajudicial killing records in the country.

According to De Lima, the continuing death threats to Catholic priests should push the Filipino public to loudly say “NO to extrajudicial killings under Mr. Duterte’s drug war” and “YES to accountability for the administration’s failure to follow the rule of law.” Last year, 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, including the priests.

Office of Senator Leila de Lima
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