ACN cries ‘persecution’ of clergymen in sedition case

ACN cries ‘persecution’ of clergymen in sedition case

Priests Flavie Villanueva, Albert Alejo, and Robert Reyes, who are among those facing sedition charges, are prayed over by nuns and laypeople after a “solidarity Mass” at the Christ the King Church in Quezon City Aug. 3. PHOTO FROM AMRSP FACEBOOK PAGE

By Roy Lagarde

August 9, 2019

Manila, Philippines

The Philippine office of the papal charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) decried as “persecution” the criminal charges filed against some bishops and priests.

ACN, a group that supports churches in difficult situations, came to the rescue of the clergymen who are accused of sedition and other crimes.

“Such charges against them constitute persecution of the church,” said Mr. Jonathan Luciano, ACN Philippines national director.

“These charges are devoid of truth and justice, decency and respect for their human dignity,” he said.

The complaints stemmed from a viral video on social media linking President Duterte and his family to the illegal drug trade.

As a group that helps persecuted Christians, Luciano said they are saddened over the “baseless accusations” against the church leaders.

The Justice department on Friday started its preliminary probe into the police’s charges of inciting to sedition, cyber libel, and obstruction of justice against 36 people, mostly government critics.

Among those accused are Archbishop Socrates Villegas, bishops Pablo Virgilio David, Honesto Ongtioco and Teodoro Bacani, three priests, and several government critics.

Facing the same allegations include Fathers Albert Alejo, Robert Reyes, and Flavie Villanueva, and La Salle Brother Armin Luistro.

Villegas, David and the three priests previously claimed that they have received death threats for criticizing the spate of killings in the country.

Archbishop Villegas has been serving as president of ACN Philippines since the office was opened in Manila in 2016.

“We continue to pray and hope that the government and respectful officials concerned will wield justice with truth, the practice of law with integrity,” Luciano said.

On Aug. 6, hundreds of priests, nuns, and laypeople showed their support for the accused church leaders during a “solidarity Mass” and candle lighting activity.

The Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines said the “silent gathering” was to resist the spate of killings and the persecution of church leaders “and those who speak the truth”. CBCPNEWS