Three Catholic priests in the Philippines said Monday that Church leaders who have been critical of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs have received death threats from unidentified people.
The Associated Press reported that Father Robert Reyes, a priest and human rights activist along with two other priests said that they would continue to speak out about the extrajudicial killings that have occurred since Duterte took office in 2016. In 2018, opposition senators in the Philippines claimed that over 20,000 people have been killed in the drug war.
After receiving the threats, the priests said they are considering seeing court protection.
“We’re not safe now,” said Reyes, according to the AP report. “After this, the death threats may become real.”
Among the messages received by church leaders are one on February 10 that said, “Your days are numbered you animal,” and another that said, “”You’ll be celebrating your last Masses because the next Mass for the dead will be for you.”
Under Duterte’s regime three Catholic priests have been murdered. While there is no evidence linking the president to these killings or to the threats received by the Church leaders, the priests said the president’s comments at the very least, could encourage attacks against the clergy.
“The deadly words of Duterte against Catholics are like a dagger pointed at us,” Reyes said. “The message is clear. It’s not only people that he wanted dead but our faith as well.”
In response to accusations in the media that he may have incited violence against members of the clergy, Duterte has mocked the Catholic Church, at one point referring to God as “stupid.”