HomeNewsJesuit, Divine Word priests plead not guilty of 'conspiracy to commit sedition'

Jesuit, Divine Word priests plead not guilty of ‘conspiracy to commit sedition’

Fathers Alberto Alejo, SJ, and Flaviano Villanueva, SVD, maintain that the charges levelled against them by the government were "made up"

A Filipino Jesuit priest and a Society of Divine Word missionary pleaded not guilty to charges of “conspiracy to commit sedition” before a Manila court on Thursday, October 22.

Jesuit priest Alberto Alejo and Father Flaviano Villanueva, SVD, maintained that the charges levelled against them by the government were “made up.”

The priests appeared before the Metropolitan Trial Court of Quezon City in the Philippine capital after the police and government prosecutors accused them and several other individuals of sedition in 2019.

“We know that these charges are made up by the government, so we pleaded not guilty and we will continue our pursuit of truth and justice, and our duty to God to fight for the oppressed,” said Father Villanueva.

Among those originally accused were the country’s vice president, Maria Leonor Robredo, several opposition politicians, and four bishops who are known for their criticism of the government’s “war on drugs.”

In February, prosecutors dropped the charges against Archbishop Socrates Villegas, Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, Bishop Honesto Ongtioco, and Bishop Teodoro Bacani, retired prelate of Novaliches.

The Justice department said there was no evidence supporting police claims that the bishops intended to commit seditious acts.

- Newsletter -

Charges against Father Robert Reyes and La Salle Brother Armin Luistro were also dismissed.

Father Alberto Alejo, SJ, walks to a courtroom in Manila to plead not guilty to charges of “conspiracy to commit sedition” on October 22. (Photo by Jire Carreon)

The charges were, however, filed in court against Fathers Alejo and Villanueva and nine others for their alleged involvement in an alleged plot to oust President Rodrigo Duterte.

The charges stem from the release of a video that went viral on several social platforms media last year linking Duterte and his family to the illegal drug trade.

A person called Peter Joemel Advincula claimed on the video and during a media briefing that Duterte’s son, Paolo Duterte, and presidential aide-turned senator Bong Go were involved in drug syndicates.

Weeks later, however, Advincula was presented by police to the media when he claimed the opposition and several church people were behind an alleged plot to oust the president.

Advincula said the bishops and the priests were part of a “shadow group” behind a plot against the president.

Fathers Alejo and Villanueva were accused of “wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously” entering into a deal “to rise publicly and tumultuously, and to employ force, intimidation and other means outside of legal methods” against Duterte.

Father Flaviano Villanueva, SVD, walks to a courtroom in Manila to plead not guilty to charges of “conspiracy to commit sedition” on October 22. (Photo by Jire Carreon)

They were released on bail in February.

In an interview outside the courtroom, Father Villanueva told LiCAS.news that he felt nothing but the “calmness that you feel when you tell the truth.”

“I’m relaxed, because we’re lucky we were represented by lawyers, we’re alive, while others do not even reach this stage and are just killed,” said Father Alejo.

“We will stand by the truth that we were wrongly-charged,” said the Jesuit priest. “Let’s search for the truth, and when we do, let’s face it and not play dumb,” he added.

Father Alejo called on the “wives, children, parents, and especially those who are frequent churchgoers” who know that their relatives are involved in the spate of drug-related killings in the country “to reveal the truth.”

“We rely on the courts, but we know that not all truths are being presented here. I’m calling those who know something, let us correct this situation,” said the priest.

Pre-trial hearings of the case against the priests and their co-accused have been set starting February 2021.

Marielle Lucenio and Vincent Go contributed to this report.

© Copyright LiCAS.news. All rights reserved. Republication of this article without express permission from LiCAS.news is strictly prohibited. For republication rights, please contact us at: [email protected]

Support LiCAS.news

We work tirelessly each day to tell the stories of those living on the fringe of society in Asia and how the Church in all its forms - be it lay, religious or priests - carries out its mission to support those in need, the neglected and the voiceless.
We need your help to continue our work each day. Make a difference and donate today.