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More bishops offer sanctuary for witnesses to drug killings

More bishops offer sanctuary for witnesses to drug killings
Archbishop Socrates Villegas holds a candle as he leads a prayer service for the victims of extrajudicial killings and those who were slain under the government’s crackdown against illegal drugs outside the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Dagupan City, Sept. 23, 2017. GLENN MUNOZ LOPEZ

MANILA— More bishops are joining Archbishop Socrates Villegas in offering any help they can for those who want to testify against cases of summary killings in the country.

Bishop Roberto Mallari of San Jose said that if there anything the diocese could do, it’s to provide refuge to those who fear for their lives.

“I’m really one with him (Villegas) and we are opening our doors as sanctuary to those who want to stand for the truth,” Mallari said over Church-run Radio Veritas on Thursday.

Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga also agreed to shield people whose testimonies could shed light on the wave of drug-related killings.

“We support and we are in solidarity with Archbishop Soc,” Santos said.

Offering sanctuary for the Church is not new.

In recent years, the Church has protected real and potential victims of human rights abuses, including people on the run because of their political beliefs especially during the martial law regime.

It has been a long practice of the Church, said Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz and Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani.

During the Arroyo administration, Cruz provided sanctuary to whistleblowers against jueteng, a multimillion-peso underground lottery, while Bacani protected Sammy Ong who testified on the alleged cheating in the 2004 elections.

Recently, the issue of church sanctuary has come when Villegas offered protection for some policemen who want to testify against summary executions.

But his offer is very clear. He said, “we will look prudently into the sincerity of their motives and veracity of their stories.”

“Within the bounds of church and civil laws, we express our willingness to grant them accommodation, shelter, and protection including their families if necessary,” Villegas said.

In the Diocese of Kalookan, some witnesses to the killing of a 17-year-old student during a police anti-drug operation have sought protection from the church. CBCPNews