ANTI-crime advocates on Wednesday cautioned the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) against providing sanctuary to police officers supposedly involved in extra-judicial killings.
Dante Jimenez, chairman of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), urged the Church to remain apolitical and not to foment public distrust in the government.
“They (CBCP) are over-stretching already [their role]. They are creating distrust in government,” Jimenez said.
The VACC chairman was reacting to the statement of outgoing CBCP president and Lingayen-Dagupan archbishop Socrates Villegas that a number of policemen had sought the Church’s protection and expressed willingness to testify about their participation in summary killings. “They have expressed their desire to come out in the open about their participation in extra-judicial killings and summary executions. Their consciences are troubling them,” said Villegas, in a statement issued Monday.
Jimenez said the CBCP should turn over potential witnesses to the proper government bodies that could provide them protection, like the Public Attorney’s Office or the Department of Justice.
“There is the separation of church and the state and providing sanctuary to witnesses is the role of government, not the Church,” he said.
The CBCP, he warned, might even be used by criminals, drug pushers and those who want to destabilize the government.
“Is the Church trying to establish a sanctuary for criminals, drug pushers and possible witnesses against the government?” Jimenez asked. “Are they (CBCP) gathering witnesses against President Rodrigo Duterte in preparation for the ICC (International criminal court) case?”
He was referring to the complaint filed by lawyer Jude Sabio against Duterte before the ICC in The Hague.
Sabio alleged that the President violated the articles of the Rome Statute that established the ICC, by encouraging mass murder or extra-judicial executions constituting crimes against humanity.