On July 31, the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan organized a Mass and a candle-lighting ceremony to express solidarity for the faithful leaders accused of inciting sedition, cyber libel, libel, and obstruction of justice. Involved in the sedition charge are the Vice President of the Philippines and 35 others, including four bishops and several priests. The bishops cited include Archbishop Socrates Villegas, President of ACN Philippines and Member of the Supervisory Board of the International Foundation and retired Bishop Teodoro Bacani, Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of Cubao and Bishop Pablo David of Caloocan.
Held at the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist in Dagupan, hundreds of people marched in prayer after Mass on Wednesday in support of Archbishop Villegas and the other three bishops innocently charged.
Jonathan Luciano, ACN National Director for the Philippines, attended the celebration of the Holy Eucharist and the candle-lighting procession together with ACN volunteers as sign of solidarity with his president.
The sedition complaint was filed on 18 July by the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG). This was in connection to the “Ang Totoong Narco List”, a video series by a man named Peter Joemel Advincula, more widely known as “Bikoy”. In the videos, he linked President Duterte, a few family members and numerous constituents to alleged involvement in illegal drug syndicates. “Bikoy” also confessed that he was a former member of a large syndicate himself. But on surrendering himself to police custody, “Bikoy” retracted his statements and stated the opposite. He claimed that everything in the videos was scripted and orchestrated by the opposing Liberal Party in connivance with a leaders of religious organizations. In a press briefing, he cited Archbishop Socrates Villegas and Bishop Pablo David as among those behind the plot to oust the President.
Expressing his concern and sadness the director of ACN said: “Around the world, cases of religious persecution continue to rise and become more rampant. Ambushes, murders, bombings – these are only a few of the violent means used by persecutors. A subtle yet more dangerous method, however, continues to exist. This comes in the form of political persecution, now directed to innocent servants of the Catholic Church”.
“As emphasized by the Pope’s prayer intentions for July, we continue to pray and hope that the government and the respectful officials involved will wield justice with truth and integrity. As the preliminary investigations against the accused commence on August 9, we call for vigilance. Let us stand in solidarity and unity in our prayers. We pray for the safety of the bishops and all those wrongfully charged, and that they find strength in these trying times,” concluded Jonathan Luciano.