MANILA, Philippines — Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David on Tuesday said the Catholic Church is not "obstructing justice" by protecting witnesses to the killing of school boy Kian Loyd delos Santos.
"I wonder in what way we in the Church have 'obstructed justice' if all we did was provide sanctuary for witnesses upon the parents' own request, and at no expense from the government at that," David said.
On Monday, Department of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said the Caloocan bishop could be guilty of obstruction of justice because he is taking custody of the witnesses.
"I honestly think we are actually facilitating, not obstructing justice. Within the specific circumstances of the case at issue, can they blame the witnesses if they feel safer with the Church than with CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group)?" David said.
"Kapag mga pulis mismo ang akusado, kanino pa sila lalapit at hihingi ng proteksyon? Sa amin sila kusang lumapit at humingi ng tulong, hindi sa gobyerno; 'criminal offense' bang maituturing iyon?" he added.
Over the weekend, the father of a witness chose to seek protection of David instead of the CIDG.
The father was initially with the CIDG and the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption tried to convince him to change his decision. However, the father made up his mind and placed his child under the custody of the Caloocan diocese.
David said it is his duty as the bishop of Caloocan to protect the people he is heading.
“For many centuries now, the Church has provided sanctuary for innocent people who fear that their lives are in danger. Walang bago sa ginagawa namin, at hindi kami tumutulong dahil sa pulitika. Tungkulin lang namin ito bilang mga pastol; wala akong alam na batas na nilalabag namin,” he said.
David added the Church would accompany the witnesses once they are summoned for hearings.
The bishop, an outspoken critic of the administration's war on drugs, said the government should treat them as allies not enemies.
“But if their agenda is not justice, then indeed they might have a basis for treating us as their enemies. We are motivated only by faith, never by politics,” he said.
David will be the vice president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines starting December 1.