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Archbishop Oscar Cruz, Anti-Corruption Activist, Dies of COVID-19

The late archbishop is known for his fearless criticisms of the country's leaders.

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz died Wednesday morning, a tweet from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) confirmed. He was 85.

It was announced earlier that Archbishop Cruz died of a lingering disease. However, around noon on the same day, Archbishop Socrates Villegas, Cruz’s successor as Lingayen-Dagupan prelate, said that the late Archbishop died “due to multi-organ failure caused by critical COVID-19 infection.” 

“Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz of Lingayen-Dagupan died today at 6:45 a.m. at the Cardinal Santos Hospital due to a lingering illness,” the CBCP said. (Read: Catholic Church Mourns Death of Two Filipino Priests)

Archbishop Cruz was appointed archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan in 1991 and retired in 2009. He also led the CBCP from 1996 to 1999. He received seminary training at the University of Santo Tomas Central Seminary and pursued further theology studies at the Lateran University in Rome.

Staunch Critic

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz scored Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte on Monday after the latter’s profanity-laced presidential declaration speech that included a curse directed at Pope Francis. (Photo from GMA Network)

The late archbishop is known for his criticisms of the country’s leaders.

A Canon lawyer, Archbishop Cruz was active in criticizing President Rodrigo Duterte. He is most notable for his comment in 2017 wherein he dismissed the president’s remark that the Catholic Church will become irrelevant in the next 30 years because of its alleged abuses and flaws. (Read: PH Church, Catholic Groups Decry Reimposition of Death Penalty)

Renato Reyes, secretary-general of Bayan, offered his condolences to the family and colleagues of Cruz. The two of them worked together in fighting corruption and abuse of power in the government in as early as the Arroyo administration.

“I had known him when we worked together in many campaigns during the Arroyo regime. We were together in the fight vs election fraud, against the killings of activist and in the broad united front,” Reyes said.

“Bishop Cruz remained active well into the next administration. He even joined the impeachment complaint vs [former president Noynoy] Aquino over the [Disbursement Acceleration Program] scheme,” he added. (Read: Caritas PH on Anti-Terror Bill: ‘Activism is not Terrorism’)


Archbishop Cruz was confined at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center in San Juan City before his death. Following health protocols, his body will be cremated immediately. 

The wake will be held at the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist in Dagupan City. Those who wish to visit the wake can do so from 6 am to 8 pm on Thursday, August 27. A funeral mass is scheduled at 9 am on Friday, August 28. 

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