3 priests claim receiving threats after criticizing Duterte policies

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 11 2019 05:37 PM | Updated as of Mar 11 2019 06:15 PM

MANILA - Catholic priests Albert Alejo, Flavie Villanueva, and Robert Reyes revealed Monday they have been receiving threats after criticizing several policies of the Duterte administration including the alleged extra-judicial killings of drug suspects.

This, after Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, a known critic of President Duterte, earlier confirmed he had been receiving death threats starting February.

Fr. Villanueva showed the media CCTV footage taken outside his residence, which also serves as his center for the poor in Manila.

The video showed a masked man who went back and forth, apparently in a surveillance mission, as well as a white van which left when the man also left the vicinity on foot.

All three priests said they have been receiving threatening text messages.

“Nakatanggap ho ako ng text nung karamihan sa atin marahil ay sinasariwa ang ating mahal sa buhay, ang love letter na natanggap ko nung ika-14 ng Pebrero ay punung-puno ng p*t*ng*n*,” Fr. Villanueva said.

“Malalaki ang letra ng text message nila nagmumura, p*t*ng*n* galit na galit papatayin daw ako pag hindi pinagbigyan ang gusto nila,” Fr. Alejo said.

“Bakit? Dahil ito sa ginagawa naming pagkundena sa kampanya kontra droga na hindi makatao lalong hindi makamahirap,” Fr. Reyes said.

The three priests came forward on Monday, just a day after President Rodrigo Duterte issued yet another criticism of Catholic priests whom he said are praying for his early demise.

Asked about the offer of Philippine National Police chief Director General Oscar Albayalde for security, the 3 seemed uninterested.

“Kung talagang nais magtanggol ng buhay, nandoon sa mga squatter,” Fr. Villanueva said.

“Hindi pa naman ako inaalok. Kung aaalukin ako, medyo kakabahan ako sa ngayon,” Fr. Alejo said.

“I think we are better off asking our parishioners, our brother priests, to protect us,” Fr. Reyes said.

The priests also recalled slain priests recently, Fr Mark Ventura, Fr. Marcelito Paez and Fr. Richmond Nilo.

The press conference ended with nuns and other lay people praying over the three priests, including other men in the clergy who are also experiencing death threats.

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

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo earlier said the death threats could be real, could be the work of pranksters or enemies of President Duterte "who are doing that to put him in a bad light."

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.