By Martin Sadongdong
Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Oscar Albayalde has underscored the readiness of the police organization to provide security for priests and other members of the religious sector amid reports that some of them are receiving death threats.
In fact, Albayalde said he “is in constant communication” with Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle to get an update whether there are members of the Church who need police security detail.
“I am in constant communication thru text messages with Cardinal Tagle,” Albayalde said.
However, the PNP chief said he has yet to receive even a single report about a member of the religious sector requesting police security detail.
“Ang mga kaparian natin, I think, wala kasing rumerekta sa akin or probably through the different regional directors. Baka dinadaan ito, I believe, kay Cardinal Tagle and then Cardinal Tagle texts the information sa akin (Our priests, I think, don’t report directly to me or to the different [police] regional directors. I believe they go to Cardinal Tagle and then he texts the information to me),” Albayalde said.
In June 2018, Albayalde met with top officials of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to discuss the concerns of the clergy, particularly about their security.
While no priest has yet to request for a police detail, at least 246 requests for Permit to Carry Firearms Outside of Residence (PTCFOUR) from 188 priests and 58 ministers, preachers and pastors have been received by the PNP.
But the CBCP earlier urged its members to refrain from owning a gun which, according to them, is an instrument of violence.
Despite that, Albayalde said that priests, who are receiving death threats, can always coordinate with the local police in the community so that appropriate measures can be taken.
“I assure Cardinal Tagle everytime that we can provide security [to them],” he said.
Last month, Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, who has been critical of the administration’s drug war, revealed that he has been receiving threats on his life.
On Monday, at least three other priests — Albert Alejo, Robert Reyes, and Flavie Villanueva, also came forward to bare the threats that they allegedly received.
The priests claimed that the threats were connected to their position against the anti-illegal drug campaign of the government which has since claimed 5,176 lives in legitimate police operations and tens of thousands more in killings perpetrated by unidentified assailants from July 1, 2016 to February 2019.
The priests also refused to accept the protection from the PNP saying they were better off being watched by their own “brothers” and members of the community.
President Duterte has been in a rocky relationship with members of the religious sector.
At times Duterte would criticise the clergy, particularly the Catholic Church, in his speeches for being critical of the drug war.
There were times when he would call them stupid, gay and other names while mocking the teachings written in the Bible.
However, last month, Duterte had warned the public not to harm the members of the Catholic Church.
This, after the President received reports that some of them are getting death threats.
He said his feud with the clergy is something “personal” and anyone who harms them will be his enemy.
Read more: Three more priests receive death threats