MANILA—Two dozen church workers and human rights advocates held a candlelight protest and noise barrage Thursday at the corner of E. Rodriguez and Gilmore streets in Quezon City.
The Promotion for Church People’s Rights (PCPR) and SELDA (Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto) slammed the government of President Rodrigo Duterte for the deaths of 3 priests over the last 6 months and demanded a halt to what they called the persecution of church workers.
Fr. Marcelito Paez, 72, a regional coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, was ambushed in December 2017 as he was driving home after helping with the release of a political prisoner in Nueva Ecija. He died in a local hospital from wounds he sustained in the attack.
Fr. Mark Ventura, a known environmentalist in Cagayan province, was shot dead in church on April 29, 2018.
Duterte has dismissed statements of condemnations from bishops and clergy, intimating the personal troubles could be behind the attacks.
He has verbally attacked leaders of the Catholic church, leaving clergy “at a loss,” according to Fr. Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines’ (CBCP) public affairs committee.
On Thursday, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said Malacañang was open to a dialogue.
Rights group Karapatan said the attacks started shortly before Duterte terminated peace talks in 2017, with the murder of United Church of Christ of the Philippines lay pastor Perfecto Hoyle on November 16 in Jabonga, Agusan del Norte.