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Thousands rally behind clergymen accused of sedition

Thousands rally behind clergymen accused of sedition

Supporters surround Archbishop Socrates Villegas before the procession in Dagupan City July 31. PHOTO COURTESY OF JERALD JIMINEZ/RCALD

By CBCP News

July 31, 2019

Dagupan City

Thousands of supporters rallied behind Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan and other clergymen who are facing sedition charges.

The justice department will start on Aug. 9 its preliminary investigation into the churchmen and opposition figures over police charges of sedition against them.

About 3,000 people marched in prayer through the city’s streets on Wednesday to dramatize their support for the church leaders.

Livestream footage shows supporters walking beside Archbishop Villegas, many of them carrying posters and banners calling for the dismissal of the charges.

Auxiliary Bishop Fidelis Layog of Lingayen-Dagupan urged the faithful to stand up for truth, justice and human rights amidst “persecution”.

Speaking during Mass held before the procession, he said that protecting justice and peace is a Christian obligation.

“We are doing this not only for you but also for others who are maligned and persecuted, whose human rights are crushed to the ground,” Layog said in his homily.

“No one should take away the truth of our human rights. Let us stand for the truth, let us protect justice, let us stand for our human rights,” he said.

Thirty-six people, including Vice President Leni Robredo, are accused of sedition and cyber libel for orchestrating a series of online videos alleging that President Duterte and his family members were involved in the illegal drugs trade.

Aside from Villegas, among those charged were Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of Cubao, Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan, retired prelate Teodoro Bacani Jr..

Also accused of the same charges were Divine Word priest Flaviano Villanueva, Jesuit priest Albert Alejo, Father Robert Reyes, and La Salle Brother Armin Luistro.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has come to the defense of the accused prelates, saying the allegations were “beyond belief”.

“These are individuals whose love for country and dedication for the welfare of our people I cannot doubt,” said Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, CBCP president. CBCPNEWS