June 23, 2018, 6:05 am
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5 suspects tagged in priest killing

POLICE investigators have pinpointed five suspects in the killing of Zaragosa, Nueva Ecija parish priest Fr. Richmond Nilo last Sunday. 

In a press conference in Camp Crame, Chief Supt. Amador Corpus, Central Luzon police regional chief, said investigators comprising the “Special Investigation Task Group Nilo” have gathered all CCTV footages from the crime scene up to the farthest point possible and have come up with faces of the five suspects, one of whom has already been identified.

Corpus said the one identified was seen on CCTV footages as riding on a motorcycle with another man after Fr. Nilo was killed as he was about to officiate mass in a chapel in Barangay Mayamot last Sunday.

One of the CCTV footages showed a car with three men board following the priest from a nearby village. Another video footage showed the gunman and another suspect, who were riding a motorcycle, waiting near the chapel where Fr. Nilo was gunned down. The motorcycle and the car were seen hurriedly leaving the scene after the shooting. 

Corpus said the car’s occupants and the motorcycle riders were scene switching rides in another video footage. 

“So we have suspects to date. We are trying to confirm the identity of the one who was identified,” Corpus said without elaborating on the role the identified suspected had in the killing of the priest. 

He said investigators are looking into three possible motives for the killing - land dispute, the priest’s assistance to molested children, and his being a staunch critic of other religions.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros yesterday filed Senate Resolution No. 764 seeking an investigation on the spate of killings of clergymen. 

Hontiveros said the killing of priests came on the heels of “continued verbal attacks of President Rodrigo Duterte on the Catholic Church and its religious leaders.”

“Is there a systematic attempt to kill Catholic priests who are critical of the administration?” she asked. 

She added: “Given this current political climate, these killings further reinforce the culture of impunity to silence valid church-led criticisms on state policies, particularly those with respect to human rights and due process.” 

The proposed Senate investigation will look into the killings of Fr. Nilo of the Diocese of Cabanatuan; Fr. Mark Ventura, a known anti-mining advocate; and Father Marcelito Paez, a human rights advocate. 

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, said he is ready to investigate the killings “but it has to wait until after the formal referral of her resolution is made to the public order committee when the Third Regular Session starts on July 23.”

Presidente Duterte yesterday said he should not be blamed for the recent killings of Catholic priests since he has not done or said anything to instigate the attacks. 

The President, during the oath taking of the newly promoted officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police led by police chief Oscar Albayalde, said some sectors have been implying the police or the military were behind the incidents, especially when the bullets recovered from crime scenes include those used in .45 caliber guns similar to the service pistols of the police.

He complained Church members are portrayed as saints, while those in government, the police and the military as evils. 

Contrary to this depiction, the President said the government has a report on one of the slain priests who allegedly had an illicit affair with a woman. He said ordered that details of the affair be kept from the public. 

The President said if Church leaders, however, would not stop talking, he would be forced to expose the alleged affairs of the priest.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said lawless groups are trying to prevent government efforts to solve criminality by “sowing division and creating animosity” and “exploiting crimes like the killings of priests.”

Roque said the public should guard against these purveyors of crime and instead work with government in advancing the peace and security of the nation, as well as its dealings with the Church.

Roque said the PNP will work closely with the Church, especially the hierarchy and the clergy, on measures to protect priests and prevent a repeat of the incidents.

Albayalde said the PNP is willing to provide priests with security personnel. “All they have to do is make a request and if they are really under threat, we will provide them with security. The same is also extended to other people in need of security,” Albayalde said.

He said if priests or any persons under threats who want to arm themselves will have to undergo the regular process so it can be determined if they should be given the necessary permits.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines rejected the idea of arming priests for personal safety. 

CBCP president Archbishop Romulo Valles said priests are men of peace, not of violence. “I would strongly oppose to arm the priests,” Valles said in an interview over Radio Veritas.

“We are men of God, men of the Church and it is part of our ministry to face dangers, to face deaths if one may say that way. But we would do it just what Jesus did,” he said. – With JP Lopez and Jojo Montemayor 
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