By Robin Gomes
The Philippine Catholic Church is calling on its faithful to pray for their pastors who face imprisonment if found guilty of sedition and other charges.
Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), issued a letter on August 1, entitled, “Solidarity in Prayer”, particularly asking that Masses be celebrated on Aug. 6, the Feast of the Transfiguration, and Aug. 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, for this intention.
Charges "beyond belief"
Philippine authorities have filed charges of inciting sedition, cyber libel, libel and obstruction of justice against four Catholic bishops, three priests, a religious brother, the country's vice president and 35 members of the opposition.
The charges stem from the release of a video that went viral on several social media platforms early this year that linked President Rodrigo Duterte and his family to the illegal drug trade.
The churchmen charged are Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of Cubao, Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan, retired Bishop Teodoro Bacani Jr. of Novaliches, and Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan.
“That they are accused of sedition and other criminal complaints is for me beyond belief,” Archbishop Valles said in the appeal.
“The processes related to the charges of the crime of sedition have now started to move. They are now asked to submit their counter affidavits”, he wrote, saying, the bishops “are now facing difficult days ahead.”
Government prosecutors are scheduled to begin the preliminary probe on Friday on the cases that the police have filed against the accused. The Department of Justice has already summoned all the accused to the investigation.
Fairness, justice and truth
“My invitation and my appeal to all of you, brother archbishops and bishops in the whole country,” the CBCP president said, is, “Let us be in solidarity with them in prayer.”
“Let us invite our priests, our religious, our people to join us in this solidarity in prayer,” he urged.
Archbishop Valles also invited the faithful to pray for all those involved in the probe “so that fairness, justice and truth will guide them”.
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila had earlier asked priests and Catholics to recite a "prayer for the nation" for "persecuted" bishops and priests on all Sunday Masses in Manila during August. (Source: UCANEWS/CBCPNEWS)