Philippine church leaders deny destabilization plot

Bishops' conference says it is not part of a reported plot to undermine govt
Philippine church leaders deny destabilization plot

Philippine National Police chief Oscar Albayalde (right) speaks to the media after a meeting with Bishop Reynaldo Evangelista of Imus, head of the public affairs body of the bishops' conference on June 28. (Photo by Angie de Silva)

 

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines has assured authorities that church leaders are not trying to destabilize the government.

Bishop Reynaldo Evangelista of Imus, head of the conference's public affairs body, said the church would never be part of efforts to sow discord.

The prelate made the statement after meeting the country's top police officials at the bishops' conference headquarters in Manila on June 28.

He was reacting to reports that the church might be used to destabilize the government following President Rodrigo Duterte's tirades against church leaders.

"Wherever [the reported destabilization efforts] came from, it cannot come from the church," said Bishops Bautista told reporters after the meeting.

"I can assure you of that," he said, adding that it is not for church leaders "to make the situation more chaotic as it is already."

Pastor Boy Saycon, secretary-general of the non-government Council for Philippine Affairs, was quoted as saying that some church people might be involved in a plot to oust Duterte.

"The effort to remove [Duterte from] office is something that he attributes to some of the leaders of the Catholic Church," Saycon said in a television interview on June 28.

Saycon has been appointed by the presidential palace to a four-man committee tasked by the president to hold a dialogue with Catholic Church leaders.

Manila Archdiocese, meanwhile, issued a statement denying reports quoting Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila as saying the church "should take leadership of the government."

Father Roy Bellen of the Archdiocesan Office of Communication said the Manila prelate only issued pastoral statements that "encouraged people to participate in activities that promote goodwill in parishes and communities."

In a letter this week, the Manila prelate asked priests in his archdiocese not let Duretre's tirades distract them from addressing pressing issues.

National Police chief Oscar Albayalde told reporters after the meeting with Bishop Evangelista that church leaders "were very satisfied with the updates" on investigations into the recent killings of priests.

"[The meeting] somewhat erased doubts the killings were all related," he said, adding that he assured the bishops of an "open line" in the event that priests are threatened.

Albayalde said the destabilization issue was not discussed during the meeting.

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"It's an abstract issue. We did not even talk about it because it does not exist," said the police official.

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