By Leslie Ann Aquino
The filing of sedition charges against some members of the clergy is meant to scare and silence critics of the administration, according to a Catholic priest.
“The move is obviously meant to scare the hell out of these churchmen and eventually silence them,” Father Jerome Secillano of the Nuestra Senora del Perpetuo Socorro Parish in Manila.
He stressed to be critical is not seditious.
“It is merely calling the attention of the government to be more circumspect and prudent in their actions,” said Secillano.
“They are neither fighting the government nor Duterte. What they are against are the repressive policies that put so much burden on the poor and on those who oppose them,” he added.
“Their love for the church, country and Filipinos especially the poor and powerless among us cannot be questioned. Some may not agree with their methods but I assure you, they’re doing things not for personal gain or selfish interests but for the sake of those who cannot fight for their rights and those who cannot stand up and defend themselves from oppressions,” said Secillano.
Father Robert Reyes, one of the priests included in the complaint, agreed with Secillano.
“This is a desperate move to suppress dissent. It is a pathetic attempt to distract people from the serious issues of the shift to Totalitarianism and wholesale betrayal to China. This can be a wakeup call for the undecided and indifferent,” he said.
The Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group on Thursday filed a complaint against a number of personalities including church leaders accusing them of cyber libel and sedition.
This was in connection with the series of online “Bikoy” videos alleging that President Duterte and his family members were involved in the illegal drugs trade.
Among the members of the clergy included in the case former CBCP President Lingayen Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, CBCP Vice President Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco, Fathers Robert Reyes, Albert Alejo and Flaviano Villanueva.
Also charged were Vice President Leni Robredo, Sen. Risa Hontiveros and Sen. Leila de Lima; former Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Bam Aquino; and Otso Diretso senatorial candidates.
READ MORE: Robredo camp cries ‘harassment’
On Saturday, Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines president Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles said he was greatly disturbed by the accusation hurled against the bishops.
“That they are accused of sedition and other criminal complaints is for me beyond belief. They may be perceived as very vocal and very critical in their pronouncements. But that they consciously worked promoting seditious activities and other related crimes, these honestly I cannot believe,” he said in a statement.
“These are individuals whose love for country and dedication for the welfare of our people I cannot doubt. Some of us may feel ill at ease in the way they publicly made known their opinions. But again, I say this, I cannot bring myself to believe that these bishops were involved in seditious activities; they are bishops whose sincerity, decency, respectfulness and love for our country and our people are beyond doubt,” added Valles.