By Hannah Torregoza
Opposition Senator Leila de Lima on Thursday commended the exemplary courage and steadfast commitment of three Filipino priests who were known critics of the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.
De Lima said these priests—Frs. Robert Reyes, Albert Alejo, also known as “Paring Bert” and Flavie Villanueva—deserves commendation for fighting tyranny and in advancing the cause of human rights and democracy in the country amid threats to their lives.
The detained senator said the ministers are a timely reminder that there are individuals “who willingly sacrificed themselves, and who knowingly walked towards certain danger, pain and death, not for any self-serving motives, but simply because mankind needed them to do the right thing: to save humanity from both earthly danger and spiritual damnation.”
“I am blessed to know of three brave souls who are fighting to deliver Filipinos from both earthly dangers and spiritual damnation,” she said.
De Lima, who is currently detained over drug charges at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center, said she is fortunate to have these prelates as her foremost spiritual advisers and personal friends.
Frs. Alejo, Villanueva and Reyes, who recently received death threats from unknown people, made their mark for fearlessly and tirelessly speaking out against the present administration’s sick policies, including extrajudicial killings, and standing up for drug war victims.
Herself a critic of the Duterte administration’s policies, de Lima said the three priests represent the “most courageous among the clergy” and “most faithful to the actions of Jesus Christ.”
“They speak the truth, defend the defenseless and bring messages of love and hope to ailing souls, even when doing so earns them the ire of powerful men; even if they and, in one abhorrent incident, even their mothers are threatened,” she said.
“They continue to impart their own personal brand of courage even in the face of explicit threats to their lives,” she added.
“Just like the great Filipino soldiers and Jesus Christ, they know what needs to be done in order to fight the rise of evil,” she further said.
According to de Lima, Fr. Reyes represents visible and unabashed “courage that feeds the spirit” while Fr. Alejo represents the wise and intellectual aspect of courage for his talent to transform painful experiences into simple teaching, “the courage that feeds the mind.”
Meanwhile, Fr. Villanueva represents compassionate and empathetic courage for his ability to use his personal experiences to deeply connect with EJK victims on a deeply personal level of commitment, “the courage that feeds the heart,” de Lima said.
Last month, the lawmaker called for renewed determination and concerted efforts from the Filipino people to defend the priests and their causes.
She also rallied behind their fight against human rights abuses and extrajudicial killings despite President Duterte’s continued verbal attacks against priests.