Bishop: ‘Can gov’t blame witnesses if they feel safer with the Church?’

Bishop: ‘Can gov’t blame witnesses if they feel safer with the Church?’
Bishop Pablo Virgilio David presides over the funeral Mass for Kian Loyd delos Santos at the Sta Quiteria Parish Church in Caloocan City, August 26, 2017. VINCENT GO

MANILA— A Catholic bishop expressed sadness over a supposed threat to charge him with “obstruction of justice” for harboring a minor who witnessed the killing of 17-year-old Kian Loyd delos Santos.

Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan insisted he had not done anything wrong and was merely responding to the request for help of the witness and her family who fear for their safety.

“I wonder in what way I have obstructed justice if all I did was provide sanctuary for witnesses upon request,” David said.

“It’s my duty as bishop and a priest and I’m not aware of violating any law just because we helped people who needed us,” he said.

The incoming Vice President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) reiterated that they will readily present the witness once they are summoned by any hearings or investigations.

“That is our simple motive for protecting witnesses: to provide them sanctuary when they ask for it; and to cooperate with the legal agencies that sincerely strive to give them justice,” said the soft-spoken prelate.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre yesterday warned the bishop of possible criminal charges for taking custody of a key witness in the death of Delos Santos.

At least four cops are facing murder and torture charges over the killing of Delos Santos as a result of the government’s ruthless war on drugs.

Police claimed the Delos Santos resisted arrest and fired at them during a drug raid but witnesses, who sought sanctuary with the bishop, said the teenager begged for his life before being shot to death by the cops.

Aguirre asserted that witnesses, especially in high-profile cases, must be placed under the government’s witness protection program.

Tension gripped at the bishop’s residence on Saturday after the father of a young witness went to the bishop’s house to initially get his children but then eventually asked the prelate to take him under its custody too.

David said the father was accompanied by representatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC).

“Can he blame the witnesses if they feel safer with the Church than with CIDG?” asked the bishop. CBCPNews