CBCP’s Villegas: Law enforcers who know about EJKs are seeking church sanctuary

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Archbishop Socrates Villegas, CBCP president (CBCP photo)

MANILA – Law enforcers have sought protection and sanctuary from officials of the Catholic Church and hope to tell all about their participation in extrajudicial killings and summary executions, according to Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines President and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas.

On Monday, CBCP News published Villegas’ statement “To be Angels of Compassion,” where the archbishop revealed that the “law enforcers” are being troubled by their consciences. He said the Church was willing to grant them shelter and protection, and extend the same even to their families if needed.

If the law enforcers wished to testify, Villegas gave assurances that clergymen would not meddle with their testimony-taking, and they would only do so with the assistance of competent, independent counsel. “(T)he Catholic Church will see to it that they are in no way induced to speak, to disclose, nor to make allegations by any member of the clergy or the hierarchy,” he stressed.

And if they wished to stay with the Church rather than the government’s witness protection program, Villegas vowed that they would not be turned over to the government.

He then appealed to the priests in Lingayen Dagupan “to open their hearts and their rectories, the convents of religious communities and seminaries, as well as other secure buildings, and to be responsible for the security of the gallant men and women in uniform who may have something important to tell the nation or to testify on before the proper forum.”

However, he made it clear to the priests that they should refrain from discussing with the law enforcers their testimonies and depositions.

He asked that volunteer lawyers come forward, “preferably those who belong to alternative law groups” to assist the law enforcers “and also readily affirm that no member of the clergy instructed, directed, and coached the testimonies they give.”

“But when they so decide… to identify themselves and to testify, every means must be provided for a fair, accurate, and unconstrained or unrestrained testimony that may be used in evidence,” Villegas said.

He added that the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan was willing to be “the loving teacher and mother” of the law enforcers, providing them with pastoral counseling and values formation.

“Let us be guardian angels for one another,” he concluded.

Villegas has consistently been vocal against extrajudicial killings, telling parishes under the Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan in August to sound their bells for 15 minutes every 8 p.m. until November 27 – this, in order, he said, to awaken “numb” consciences of churchgoers who approve of the violence related to the war on drugs.