LOOK: Death threats vs priests critical of Duterte drug war

MANILA, Philippines – "Ihanda nyu na ang lugar na pagbuburolan ninyo (sic)… Dahil ang sunod na Misa…ay Misa na para sa kapayapaan ng kaluluwa nyu (sic)."

(Prepare now the place where your wake will be held… Because your next Mass… is the Mass for the repose of your souls.)

Text messages such as this barraged prominent Catholic leaders – Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas and Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David – between February 10 and 14 this year.

These death threats also mentioned two Catholic priests, Fathers Albert Alejo and Robert Reyes.

"Masyado kayung paki alamero ni Socrates lalo na yung olopong nyung pari si Alejo at Reyes (sic). Putang ina talaga kayu. Pakialamero kayu (sic)," said a text message to David on February 13. (You and Socrates, and the snakes among your priests, Alejo and Reyes, love to meddle. You sons of a bitch. You meddlesome people.)

Father Flavie Villanueva, a former drug user who is now a priest, said there is also a threat to his life. 

The group of Alejo, Reyes, and Villanueva released copies of these text messages in a press conference on Monday, March 11, as they came forward to expose death threats against them.

Read parts of these threatening text messages below:

These death threats reportedly prompted Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, who was in Rome at that time, to send a text message to longtime Duterte aide Bong Go, who then relayed it to President Rodrigo Duterte.

Duterte read aloud Tagle's supposed text message in a February 25 speech. (READ: Bishop critical of Duterte drug war gets death threats)

"Good day po. Greetings from Rome. I was informed that Bishop David...some priests got death threats from someone claiming to be working for the President's family.... Just to let you know, baka may naninira (someone might be trying to destroy your reputation). Thanks. We pray," Tagle reportedly said.

Malacañang distanced itself from the death threats received by David, but critics said Duterte's words emboldened threats against Catholic priests. (READ: Duterte said kill the bishops – and his word became flesh) – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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 pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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