PNP offers to protect priests facing death threats

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 28 2019 08:34 AM | Updated as of Mar 04 2019 06:06 PM

Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David speaks during a press conference at the Commission on Human Rights office, September 18, 2017. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/File

The Philippine National Police on Thursday said it is ready to protect priests who are facing death threats. 
 
Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, a critic of the government's anti-narcotics drive, said he has been receiving death threats from unknown people since earlier this month. 

The threats came after the President Rodrigo Duterte said bishops are "better off dead" and even hinted that a certain Bishop "David" was stealing donations. 

He later appealed to the public not to harm leaders of the Catholic Church, despite repeatedly urging drug addicts and criminals to maul, kill and steal from moneyed bishops. 

PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde said Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle has informed him of threats against the clergy, especially in Caloocan. 

He said he has offered to validate the threats and assign bodyguards to priests.

"Inassure naman natin po si Cardinal Tagle na tutulong tayo 'pag may mga threat po na natatanggap iyung mga kaparian," he told radio DZMM. 

(We assured Cardinal Tagle that we will help if priests receive threats.) 

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Opposition Senators Leila de Lima and Risa Hontiveros have blamed the President for the death threats against David. 

"The Catholic clergy was never threatened with harm by anybody until Duterte said that they are better off dead," De Lima said Wednesday. 

"Duterte is not fooling anyone with his Pontius Pilate act," she added.

Hontiveros, meanwhile, said "not even President Duterte's sudden turnaround will absolve him of his role in this matter." 

"This is what happens when you have a leader who encourages violence through his words," she said.

Malacañang has refused to take the blame for death threats against Church officials, saying Duterte's perceived attacks were merely "hyperbole."

Under Duterte, several priests have been killed by unknown assailants, and critics say the alleged climate of impunity under the current administration has emboldened the killers.

Duterte routinely attacks the Church and its teachings. Last year, he drew flak after calling God "stupid."