Four bishops, a priest and a man religious were acquitted from the same charges a few days ago. Fr Alejo and fr Villanueva posted a 10,000-pesos (US0) cast bond but are expected to be arraigned on 17 March along with one of the president’s bitter rival.
Manila (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Two priests have avoided jail time by posting bail today after they were charged with trying to destabilising the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court issued a warrant of arrest for Fr Albert Alejo (picture 2), Fr Flavie Villanueva and nine others over a supposed conspiracy to commit sedition.
The two priests were indicted in connection with an online video linking Duterte and his family to the illegal drug trade.
Three days ago, the Philippines Department of Justice (DOJ) acquitted four bishops, a priest and a man religious of the same charges.
The Quezon City Court withdrew the arrest warrant against the priests shortly after Frs Alejo and Villanueva posted 10,000 pesos (US0) cash bond.
The two will be arraigned on 17 March, together with a bitter rival of the president, former senator Antonio Trillanes IV.
The latter is presently out of the country. In a statement, he said: “I intend to post bail once I arrive in Manila late next week,” adding, “I will face this case just as I have faced all the other harassment cases Duterte's minions have filed against me.”
For many Filipinos, the case is part of a strategy of intimidation by the administration to silence critics.
Frs Alejo and Villanueva have always denied any involvement in actions to discredit Duterte. “It’s pure harassment and meant to send a chilling message to the others (critics),” Fr Alejo said.
The two churchmen are members of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), a group of men and women religious working with marginalised people in the poorest rural communities.
The government of President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly accused the RMP and other Catholic associations of being "fronts" for the underground communist movement.