MANILA, Philippines – Opposition senatorial candidates condemned "in the strongest possible terms" the deaths threats received by prominent Catholic leaders in the country.
The Otso Diretso bets on Tuesday, March 12, also called on President Rodrigo Duterte to stop his tirades against the Catholic Church, as critics believe these attacks are emboldening the threats received by members of the clergy.
This comes after prominent Catholic leaders – Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas and Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David – and 3 Catholic priests – Fathers Albert Alejo, Robert Reyes, and Flavie Villanueva – told the public they have been receiving death threats.
These bishops and priests are among the staunchest critics of Duterte's bloody anti-drug campaign, which has claimed the lives of thousands. (READ: Duterte said kill the bishops – and his word became flesh)
Here are the statements of Otso Diretso condemning the threats against the Catholic leaders:
Election lawyer Romy Macalintal
"We denounce in the strongest possible terms the death threats against the men of the Church. We call on President Duterte to stop fueling the fire of persecution against the Catholic Church and the men of God to put a stop to this culture of impunity. The administration should stop considering the men of God as enemies, but see them as partners in the development of Filipinos as productive citizens of the country."
Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano
"Hindi kagulat-gulat na mayroong mga pagbabanta sa buhay ng kaparian habang patuloy silang bukambibig ng ating Pangulo. Inuudyok pa niya na pagnakawan at patayin ang mga ito. The President's words just become flesh whenever a priest is gunned down."
(It's not surprising that there are threats against the lives of priests, as the President continues to lash out at them. He even encourages them to be robbed and get killed. The President's words just become flesh whenever a priest is gunned down.)
Human rights lawyer Chel Diokno
"Tama na ang pananakot. Tama na ang paggamit ng karahasan. Tama na ang ganitong mga taktika (The threats should stop. The use of violence should stop. These tactics should stop).... The government should take this matter seriously instead of simply dismissing it as pranks or propaganda. This is a matter of life and death. And instead of resorting to threats, perhaps the government should listen to the concerns of our priests and their flock."
Marawi civic leader Samira Gutoc
"With the increasing number of death threats to members of the Catholic clergy, including those made to 2 bishops and 3 priests, I humbly appeal to President Duterte to publicly recant his statements that may be putting in danger the lives of these people. As the father of our nation, Mr President, people look up to you, emulate your every character and movement, and even idolize you to the extent of following your every word. May kapangyarihan ka po, Mr President, na baguhin ang lahat ng ito sa pamamagitan lamang ng iyong mga salita (You have the power, Mr President, to change all of these wrongs through your words)."
Former solicitor general Florin Hilbay
"Hindi maaaring sabihin ni Pangulong Duterte at ng mga opisyales niya na wala siyang impluwensiya sa mga death threats na natatanggap ng mga kaparian. Anumang sabihin ng Pangulo ay state policy. Tuwing gamit niya ang selyo ng Pangulo ng Pilipinas, kinakatawan niya ang prinsipyong sinasandigan ng buong bansa. Hindi niya matatakasan ang impact ng mga ito dahil lamang siya ay 'nagbibiro.'"
(President Duterte and government officials cannot say he does not have any influence over the death threats received by the clergy. Anything the President says is state policy. Every time he uses the seal of the President of the Philippines, he represents the principles of the whole country. He cannot escape the impact of this just because he was "joking.")