MANILA—The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines(CBCP) expressed its doubts over the charges filed against some of its members, including former CBCP president Archbishop Socrates Villegas, saying the charges were "distressing."
According to a CBCP News report, CBCP president Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles said the sedition and cyber-libel charges were "beyond belief."
“I am very saddened by this news and greatly disturbed by this development. I know these bishops quiet well,” Valles said in a statement.
Besides Villegas, bishops Pablo Virgilio David, Honesto Ongtioco and Teodoro Bacani, and other prelates and priests were accused in connection with the viral "Ang Totoong Narcolist" videos that tagged the President Rodrigo Duterte's family in illegal-drugs operations.
The complaint was based on a sworn statement of Peter Joemel Advincula, the man who introduced himself as hooded figure "Bikoy" in the videos that made rounds on social media at the height of the May elections.
Advincula, in his statement, detailed "supposed meetings with the aforementioned personalities and how they planned what he referred to as "Project Sodoma." The plan was to allegedly paint Duterte black and "destabilize his government by implicating him, his family and other government officials in drug syndicates."
Valles, according to the CBCP report, called the charges of sedition "unbelievable."
“I cannot bring myself to believe that these bishops were involved in seditious activities,” he added.
David, the newly elected CBCP vice president, slammed the “unjust” and “atrocious” charges against him and his fellow prelates.
“The intention is obvious: pure harassment and an effort on the part of the PNP to do, not their sworn duty, but what they think will be pleasing to the higher authorities,” he said in a statement.
Ongtioco, longtime bishop of the Cubao diocese, said he was surprised at his inclusion in the charges.
“I do not know why I am included in the list. I am, and will always, be a person of peace,” Ongtioco said in a statement.
Other opposition figures charged are Vice-President Leni Robredo, senators Leila de Lima and Risa Hontiveros, and former senator Antonio Trillanes IV.
Also charged were Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, former Sen. Bam Aquino, Moro civic leader Samira Gutoc, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, and House Deputy Speaker Erin Tañada, who ran for the Senate under opposition slate Otso Diretso in the May elections but lost.
Former Education Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro and several officials of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) were also cited in the complaint.