More priests bare death threats under Duterte’s watch

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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More priests bare death threats under Duterte’s watch


(3rd UPDATE) Fathers Flavie Villanueva, Robert Reyes, and Albert Alejo expose death threats they have recently received under the watch of President Rodrigo Duterte

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – More Catholic priests came out on Monday, March 11, to expose death threats against them under the watch of President Rodrigo Duterte. 

Fathers Flavie Villanueva, Robert Reyes, and Albert Alejo appeared in a press conference at the Saint Vincent School of Theology in Tandang Sora, Quezon City, to report death threats they have recently received.

In the press conference, the priests showed copies of text messages they have received, cursing at them, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, and Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David.

Read parts of these threatening text messages below:

Reyes said the text messages against them began with the tirades of Duterte.

Ang mga text na ito ay mga nakakatakot na banta na nagsimula sa matabila na dila mismo ng ating Presidente dahil sa galit niya sa ating Simbahan,” the priest said. (These text messages are scary threats that began with the loud mouth of our President because of his anger at our Church.)

Reyes said Duterte is angry at the Catholic Church because of its critical stance against the government’s war on drugs, which has killed thousands.

The priests on Monday said they will continue their mission even as the threats rouse fear in them.

“Aaminin ko po na lumabas po kami dahil may takot din kami (I admit we came out now because we are afraid),” said Alejo, a Jesuit priest, even as he continued criticizing the spate of killings in the Philippines.

“Nananawagan kami sa mga utak, sa mga ulo, sa mga pasimuno ng pagpatay, itigil na po natin ‘yan. Itigil na ninyo ang mga nakawilihan ninyong negosyo (We appeal to the brains, the masterminds, the proponents of the killings, please stop it. Stop the livelihood you have been accustomed to).”

Reyes said their response is not silence, but a stronger stance against killings.

“Hindi pananahimik, kundi ang malinaw, mahinahon, at matapang na pamamahayag at paninindigan. Itigil na ang pananakot, itigil na ang pagpatay (Not silence, but the clear, sober, and courageous proclamation and conviction. Stop the threats, stop the killings),” he said.

This comes after David, one of the bishops most critical of drug war killings, confirmed that he recently received death threats. (READ: Caloocan diocese prays for Bishop David’s safety: ‘Sasamahan namin siya’)

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) 

On Monday, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the death threats “could be coming from pranksters, or could be from anti-Duterte trolls” to put Duterte “in a bad light.” He said these could also come “from personal enemies of the priests.”

“Sending threats via text messages is the easiest and convenient thing to do, you can’t trace the source,” Panelo said. –

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior multimedia reporter covering religion for Rappler. He also teaches journalism at the University of Santo Tomas. For story ideas or feedback, email