Catholic prelate invites international groups to come and see the ‘silent persecution’

Published July 22, 2019, 8:02 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera & Richa Noriega

By Leslie Ann Aquino

A Catholic prelate on Monday appealed to international groups to come to the Philippines to see for themselves what he termed as the “silent persecution” of the people and church here.

Retired Bishop Antonio Tobias (CARLO CUDAL via CBCP NEWS / MANILA BULLETIN)
Retired Bishop Antonio Tobias

“I want to open our country to international groups. Please come. Come and see the country and observe the silent persecution that is happening to the people and the church,” Outgoing Novaliches Bishop Antonio Tobias said during the Mass for Truth held at the St. Peter Parish in Quezon City hours before President Duterte delivers his Fourth State of the Nation Address.

The prelate said this days after the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigative Detection Group filed a complaint against a number of personalities including church leaders accusing them of cyber libel and sedition.

This was in connection with the series of online “Bikoy” videos alleging that President Duterte and his family members were involved in the illegal drugs trade.

Tobias said the church is being persecuted even if it is the one helping the families of the victims of the war on drugs of the present administration by providing livelihood and scholarships.

“When Duterte assumed office he started with this war on drugs. He promised to get rid of the drug problem in six months. After three years, the number of drug users even increased and many died,” he said.

“It is the church that is looking after those who survived the killings…giving them a chance to lead a new life. The church also assists the widow who are looking for livelihood in order for their children to live,” added Tobias.

And now the government, he said wants to imprison leaders of the Church using any random accusations.

“Is this how the government will repay the church for everything that it has done?”Tobias asked.

Meanwhile, the Ecumenical Bishops Forum described what is happening to the country as one of the most trying periods in the nation’s history.

“Our nation has been bleeding and our people suffering through one of the most trying periods in our history. The oppressive policies of the government led by President Rodrigo Duterte have brought about the further deterioration of democracy in our country and have continued to deny our people their rights,” the group said in a statement.

“The vision of a country where peace and justice reigns, sovereignty is cherished and human rights are upheld, more and more apparent each day, has been sliding into oblivion with President Duterte’s failure to fulfill his election promises,” it further read.

EBF said the Philippines is in crisis and it is not only social and political but also moral and spiritual.

“The regression of our country’s democracy, the embodiment of a tyrannical regime and the oppression of the people are fueling the national catastrophe. President Duterte is guilty of destroying democracy and in subverting the rule of law, and for such betrayal of our country and people’s interest, has lost all the legitimacy to lead the nation,” the group said.

“In these times, the Filipino people are summoned to muster courage and rediscover collective responsibility for our nation’s welfare. We must not cower against evil and stand up against it. We must speak out for positive change and genuine reforms to regain our country’s democracy, restore our people’s freedom and rebuild our nation,” EBF added.

EBF is a fellowship of bishops from the United Church of Christ (UCCP), United Methodist (UMC), Episcopal Church in the Philippines (ECP), Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), and the Roman Catholic Churches in the Philippines.