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Protection offer to Philippine bishops and priests

MANILA (UCAN): Philippine authorities offered protection to Catholic bishops and priests following reports that several Church leaders have received death threats in recent weeks.
National police chief, Oscar Albayalde, said the offer was discussed with Luis Cardinal Tagle of Manila.
 
“We offered them protection and even threat validation,” said Albayalde, adding that he assured help for any priest facing any form of threat.
 
“To secure the Church and its people especially at these dangerous moments is most welcome,” Father Jerome Secillano of the public affairs committee of the bishops’ conference said.
 
“It is up to those who are in this situation whether to accept the offer or not,” said the priest, adding that not all priests and bishops were “under threat.”
 
In a seeming turnaround and after calling the Philippine’s Catholic bishops “useless fools” who should be killed, the country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte, warned anyone against harming priests and bishops in a speech before a political gathering in the central Philippines on February 24.
 
“Do not touch the priests, they have nothing to do with politics,” said Duterte. “Do not try to do it,” he said, adding that “a religious has nothing to do with the vagaries of life.”
 
The president made the warning after being told that people close to his family have threatened bishops and priests critical of his administration’s policies.
 
Duterte had received a message from Luis Cardinal Tagle of Manila, who told him that, “some priests received death threats from someone claiming” to work for the family of the president.
 
“Lay off! Stop threatening them or you’ll have to deal with me,” he told them.
 
“Once you touch nuns, priests, or imams—don’t harm them. Those are religious people. You know them, we’ll have an encounter. They are not involved,” the president said.
 
On February 26, Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan, confirmed in an interview that he had received death threats over the past two weeks.
 
“I have been receiving them but I do not know who they are from,” said the bishop whose diocese has become known as a killing field of suspected drug users and dealers.
 
Human rights groups estimate that more than 20,000 people have died in Duterte’s deadly war against drugs that started after his election in 2016.
 
When asked if he thought the threats to his life had something to do with his criticism of the anti-narcotics campaign, Bishop David said “Your guess is as good as mine.”
 
Despite the threats, he is not planning to limit his movements, although he said he would “also watch my back.”
 
The bishop said, “No threat or intimidation can stop me from carrying on with my spiritual and pastoral duties as a bishop. We draw strength and courage from God through prayer and discernment.” 
 
He added, “I get spiritual support from a whole army of contemplatives serving as my prayer partners.” 

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