After being acquitted of sedition charges, a Catholic priest has strengthened his resolve to pursue justice for the victims of killings in the “war on drugs” under the Duterte administration .
“So while our acquittal is a call of thanksgiving, there is also a stronger resolve to continue the mission of fighting for justice and unraveling the truth,” said Divine Word priest Fr. Flaviano “Flavie” Villanueva.
Due to insufficient evidence, a Quezon City court on Sept. 6 cleared Villanueva and Jesuit Fr. Albert Alejo of sedition charges they said were used to silence the critics of Duterte.
Villanueva welcomed the ruling and maintained that the charges were fabricated to punish them for their pursuit of justice.
“To say that the charges have been trumped up to silence us is something we never doubted. That was clear to us at the very onset,” he said.
“It was clearly the past administration silencing those who speak the truth,” the priest added.
While they are thankful for the court’s decision, Villanueva said their concern remains the victims of extrajudicial killings in Duterte’s drug war that left thousands dead.
“They were not charged but they were killed tragically,” according to him.
The priest is known for establishing a support group for families of EJK victims. In 2021, he received the prestigious Human Rights Tulip Award from the Dutch government.
The Metropolitan Trial Court in Quezon City also acquitted all the remaining accused who were allegedly involved in a plot to destabilize the Duterte administration.
The charges stemmed from the release of a viral video on social media platforms in 2019 that linked Duterte and his family to the illegal drug trade.
Among those implicated in the complaint were then Vice President Leni Robredo, three opposition senators, four bishops, three priests, and other critics of Duterte’s bloody war on drugs.
The accused all denied the allegations made by a formerly detained crime suspect, Peter Advincula, who claimed that he had conspired with them to discredit Duterte by linking them to drug syndicates.
In 2020, the Justice department dropped the charges against Archbishop Socrates Villegas, Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, Bishop Honesto Ongtioco, Bishop Teodoro Bacani, and other accused due to lack of evidence.
Villanueva, on the other hand, wished for the release of former Senator Leila De Lima, who remains in jail.
A leading critic of Duterte, she was arrested and detained on drug trafficking charges in 2017 after initiating a Senate probe into the drug war.
“She deserves an immediate acquittal more than us,” he said.