By Genalyn Kabiling
Priests receiving alleged death threats should report the matter to the police to help ensure their safety, Malacañang said Wednesday.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said authorities are expected to conduct an investigation on the matter once the priests bring forward their complaints.
“Our position is that they bring their concern officially to any law enforcement agency so that the latter may conduct an investigation, and at the same time secure their safety,” Panelo said.
Panelo, also Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, also challenged priests to prove allegations that President Duterte was behind the threats to their lives. He said it was “elementary in law” that the one who alleges must prove.
“Since the priests are the ones accusing the government or the President as being behind those death threats, it stands to reason that they have to prove their accusation,” he said.
“The burden of proof lies on them,” he added.
Three priests critical of Duterte’s brutal war on drugs recently came forward and admitted receiving death threats from unknown people. Priests Albert Alejo, Flavie Villanueva and Robert Reyes reportedly believed that the threatening messages were inspired by the President’s rhetoric against the church.
The Palace said it was unfair to blame the President for the alleged death threats, adding he has spoken against violence committed against priests.
The President earlier jokingly asked drug addicts to rob and steal from rich bishops amid his tirade against alleged clerical abuses.
After Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle reported the death threats allegedly received by a bishop and other priests, Duterte warned the public against harming the prelates. He said his joke about killing the priests should not be taken seriously.