MANILA, Philippines — Opposition senatorial aspirants under the Otso Diretso coalition have called out President Rodrigo Duterte for the death threats received by Catholic priests, especially as more have come forward to say they had been threatened and feared possible surveillance.
READ: More threats vs priests bared
READ: Archbishop Villegas, 3 priests get death threats
Election lawyer Romy Macalintal said the Chief Executive should “stop fueling the fire of persecution against the Catholic church and the men of God” and “put a stop to this culture of impunity.”
“The administration should stop considering the men of God as enemies, but [must] see them as partners in the development of Filipinos as productive citizens of the country,” Macalintal, a self-described advocate of the welfare of senior citizens and persons with disabilities, added in a statement.
Marawi civic leader and peace advocate Samira Gutoc, meanwhile, appealed to Duterte to “recant his statements that may be putting in danger the lives of these people.”
“Hindi po kaduwagan ang pagbawi sa mga nabitawan lalo na kung nasabi ito sa isang madamdaming pagkakataon, o sa isang sandali ng galit (Recanting your statement does not mean you’re coward, especially if those words were said in a moment of anger). But the better person in you, Mr. President, will look to rectify this and do whatever you can to reverse its harmful effects,” Gutoc added.
Human rights lawyer Chel Diokno said the government should take these threats seriously after Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo dismissed the incidents as possibly coming from “pranksters” or “anti-Duterte trolls.”
READ: Death threats vs priests may be from pranksters, anti-Duterte trolls – Panelo
“Tama na ang pananakot. Tama na ang paggamit ng karahasan. Tama na ang ganitong mga taktika (Enough with the intimidation. Enough with the violence. Enough with these tactics),” Diokno said.
In a press conference, Catholic priests Albert Alejo, Flavie Villanueva, and Robert Reyes showed the threats sent to Alejo and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas last month through text messages.
This comes two weeks after Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David confirmed that he had received death threats. David had been singled out by Duterte, who said bishops should be robbed and killed for supposedly doing nothing but criticize his administration.
“They are only speaking out against violence, injustice, and the violation of human rights and human dignity,” Diokno said. “Why should they receive death threats for this?”
Panelo, however, defended the President from the candidates’ “unfair” statements.
“It is unfair to be pointing to the President as behind it lalo pa’t sinasabi nila last month pa nila nakukuha eh meron nang salita si Presidente, matindi ‘yung salita niya na ‘wag ninyong gagalawin ang mga pari at obispo,” he said. /ee
(It is unfair to point to the President as the one behind it, especially if they (priests and bishops) are saying that they received the death threats last month. But the President has already spoken. He already warned people not to harm priests and bishops.)
READ: Palace says ‘unfair’ to tag Duterte in death threats vs priests
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