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Philippine Bishops seek Govt protection for threatened priest

The Catholic Bishops of the Philippines on Monday asked the country's government to protect a priest who accused army officers of conniving with Muslim Abu Sayyaf kidnappers.

The Catolic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) also called for a "full investigation" into charges by Fr Cirilo Nacorda that military officers took bribes to allow Abu Sayyaf gunmen to escape a massive military assault on the southern island of Basilan in June.

"In the meantime, the CBCP is appealing to the concerned government agencies to extend to Father Nacorda the necessary support and protection," it said.

Only a "fair, impartial and immediate investigation" could restore the full confidence of Basilan residents into the military leadership, which has denied the accusation as hearsay.

Nacorda claimed he has strong evidence to support his claim that an army general, a colonel and several other officers allowed the Abu Sayyaf gunmen to escape from a hospital and church compound in Lamitan town where they were cornered by hundreds of soldiers on 2 June.

Nacorda escaped at the height of the assault, but his bodyguard was killed.

The priest claimed the officers received a share of ranson money from the Abu Sayyaf, allowing the rebels to flee and continue with their criminal activities.

Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines