MANILA, Philippines – Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), warned against “selective justice” as 3 opposition senators face criminal charges over the pork barrel controversy.
In a media statement Sunday, June 8, Villegas wrote: “We laud the effort of government to deal resolutely with graft and corrupt practices. This is the path of righteousness. Those who have been charged must be dealt with the full force of the law. Those who are tasked to prosecute must observe total commitment to the human rights of the accused.”
“Everybody culpable, whatever their political affiliations may be, should be investigated and, if so warranted, indicted. When justice is selective, it is not justice at all,” he added.
Signing it as Lingayen-Dagupan archbishop and not on behalf of the CBCP, Villegas released this statement after opposition senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada were charged with plunder before the Sandiganbayan on Friday, June 6. (Watch more in the video below)
Villegas, who is associated with the family of President Benigno Aquino III, earlier appealed for an “impartial” investigation into the pork barrel controversy, the Philippines' biggest corruption scandal in recent history. (INTERACTIVE: Pork Tales: A story of corruption)
In the earlier statement signed on behalf of the CBCP on May 24, he also denounced the use of public office to obstruct the “pursuit of truth.”
'Vengeful action not from God'
In his statement on Sunday, Villegas however pointed out that Christians should “love at all times, even those who sin and err, for none of us is above human frailty.”
“We embrace all who have wronged society as our brothers and sisters and continue to pray, that as God’s people, we may ALL (emphasis his) walk the path of conversion and renewal. For those among us who are not accused, let us remember that the offenses with which those who now stand accused are charged could very well be the offense of any of us as well. Who are we to condemn? Let the one who has no sin be the first to cast a stone,” he said.
“Let no action – official, personal or otherwise – be ever born out of hatred or a desire for vengeance. A vengeful action cannot be from God. Let everything we do be born out of sincere love for each other and concern for the common good for only then will we be recognized as disciples of the Divine Master who searches out and rescues the lost and the weak,” the archbishop added.
Villegas – a protégé of the late Jaime Cardinal Sin who helped stage the 1986 revolution that toppled dictator Ferdinand Marcos – said he released this statement because “the Kingdom of Jesus Christ is a kingdom of truth, justice, love, and peace.”
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at email@example.com.