MANILA, Philippines – Police have sought the protection of the Catholic Church to testify on extrajudicial killings in President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said Monday, October 2.
“Law enforcers have come forward confidentially to us, their spiritual leaders, to seek sanctuary, succor, and protection. They have expressed their desire to come out in the open about their participation in extrajudicial killings and summary executions,” Villegas said in a statement.
“Their consciences are troubling them,” he said.
“We will look prudently into the sincerity of their motives and the veracity of their stories. Within the bounds of Church and civil laws, we express our willingness to grant them accommodation, shelter and protection (including their families if necessary),” he continued.
Villegas, the outgoing president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), issued this statement in his capacity as archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan.
The archbishop made this disclosure after thousands of people have died in police operations and vigilante-style killings in Duterte’s anti-drug campaign.
The Catholic Church is one of the institutions most strongly against all forms of killings. (READ: Churches show force in biggest rally under Duterte)
Read the full text of Villegas’ statement below:
Law enforcers have come forward confidentially to us, their spiritual leaders, to seek sanctuary, succor and protection. They have expressed their desire to come out in the open about their participation in extrajudicial killings and summary executions. Their consciences are troubling them.
We will look prudently into the sincerity of their motives and the veracity of their stories. Within the bounds of Church and civil laws, we express our willingness to grant them accommodation, shelter and protection (including their families if necessary). The hospitality, comfort and acceptance that they seek from the Church will be attended to. Whatever we do to the least of our brethren we do to Christ. (cfr. Mt. 25:40)
If such law-enforcers wish to testify, then the Catholic Church will see to it that they are in no way induced to speak, to disclose nor to make allegations by any member of the clergy or the hierarchy. Statements, especially in the form of affidavits and depositions, must be made with the assistance of competent independent counsel. If their preference is to stay with us in the Church, they will not be turned over to the State under its own witness-protection program.
My brothers priests in Lingayen Dagupan are requested, in the name of the Lord, to open their hearts and their rectories, the convents of religious communities and seminaries as well as other secure buildings and to be responsible for the security of the gallant men and women in uniform who may have something important to tell the nation or to testify on before the proper forum.
But our priests are admonished to refrain from discussing with “asylum-seekers” the contents of their testimonies and depositions. It is furthermore recommended that volunteer lawyers, preferably those who belong to alternative law groups, assist the witness and also readily affirm that no member of the clergy instructed, directed, and couched the testimonies they give.
But when they so decide or opt to identify themselves and to testify, every means must be provided for a fair, accurate and unconstrained or unrestrained testimony that may be used in evidence.
We are likewise putting our Ministry of Mercy at the service of these law enforcers who need the hospitality of the Church. In the areas of pastoral counselling and values formation, the Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan will be the loving teacher and mother of our law enforcers. Let us be guardian angels for one another.
From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, Dagupan City, October 2, 2017, Memorial of the Guardian Angels
+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan