Thousands march to defend Philippines clergy

Thousands march to defend Philippines clergy

Catholics in a northern Philippines archdiocese marched in support of Church leaders accused of conspiring to overthrow President Rodrigo Duterte.

About 3,000 Church workers, students and parishioners from the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan carried placards last week with messages expressing support for Archbishop Socrates Villegas and other accused Church leaders during a July 31 prayerful demonstration, reported.

The country’s Justice Department is set to open a preliminary investigation this week into sedition and cyber libel charges against the leaders, which other than Archbishop Villegas include Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of Cubao, Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan, and retired Bishop Teodoro Bacani Jnr of Novaliches.

Others facing the same charges are Divine Word Fr Flaviano Villanueva, Jesuit Fr Albert Alejo, Fr Robert Reyes, and Lasallian Bro. Armin Luistro.

At least 36 other people were also charged for allegedly orchestrating a series of online videos purporting that Duterte and his family members were involved in the illegal drug trade.

The bishops’ conference has called the allegations “beyond belief”.

Speaking during a Mass before the march, Auxiliary Bishop Fidelis Layog of Lingayen-Dagupan called on Catholics to stand up for truth, justice and human rights.