In his one hour and 20-minute speech at the oath-taking of the newly-elected barangay captains of Region VII in Cebu last June 7, President Duterte mentioned “kill” and “killing” and its equivalent Visayan word 30 times.
That is not unusual for a Duterte speech.
Three days after, a 44-year old priest lay dead beside the church altar killed by an unidentified gunman while preparing to say the 6 p.m. Mass at Barangay Mayamot in Nueva Ecija.
The killing was so brazen, it rendered one in a state of shock. But only briefly because it was not entirely surprising. The environment for such impunity has long been set no less by the highest official of the land.
As what Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas and his fellow religious workers said in their statement condemning the killing of 44-year old Fr. Richmond Nilo, parish priest of St. Vincent Ferrer church last June 10, “Killing is the solution. Killing is the language. Killing is the way. Killing is the answer. Killing is encouraged. Killing is their job. Killers are rewarded. Killers boast of their murders.
“They kill in the streets. They kill inside homes. They kill in tricycles and jeeps. They kill in plazas. They kill in the malls. They kill in the chapels. The nation is a killing field. They kill everywhere. They are happy to kill.”
Fr.Nilo is the third priest killed in six months. Fr. Mark Ventura was killed after celebrating Mass in in Gattaran, Cagayan on April 29 and Fr. Marcelito Paez was killed in an ambush in Jaen, Nueva Ecija on December 4, 2017.
On June 6, Fr. Rey Urmeneta of the St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Calamba and a former police chaplain, was wounded after being shot by unidentified gunmen.
Archbishop Soc, joined by Bishop-Elect of Bayombong Jose Elmer I. Mangalinao; Father Alvin Gerald Platon,Vicar General and Chancellor; Monsignor Oliver Mendoza; Monsignor Manuel Bravo; Fr. Allan Lopez, OP; Fr. Winston Estrada; Fr. Hernan Caronongan; Fr. Estephen Mark Espinoza; Fr. Antonio Ray Quintans; Fr. Kristoffer Allan Soriano; and Fr. Eric Galivo, lamented: “They are killing our flock. They are killing us the shepherds. They are killing our faith. They are cursing our Church. They are killing God again as they did in Calvary.”
They did not mention the name of the President.
But they quoted the famous line of King Henry II about Saint Thomas Becket: "Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?"
They recalled: “Like blind fanatics, the knights of the King went to the Cathedral, searched for the Archbishop, hacked him, and split his skull to make the King happy, but the king was unnerved instead. The King became penitent and offered penance. The murderers were disgraced.”
The situation in the country is different,they noted: “Today, the murderers are commended and the king is undisturbed.”
To the sycophants who provide applause to anything the President says, Archbishop Soc’s group asked: “Are you still clapping? Are you still laughing? You still find it funny? You still think ‘Dapat lang"? Are you still saying "Pagbigyan natin"? Are you still saying our people feel safer now? Are you still saying this is the best government we ever had? Is this the change you want? Are these the changes you dream of? Are you still saying "There are some good things happening! Focus on the good"? If they curse us again for speaking up, we will not be surprised.”
The next challenge was puzzling as to whom they were directing it: “Are you afraid to talk? You think silence is a virtue? You think we your shepherds should sow unity by being like the monkeys who see and speak and hear no evil? You think we can be the next target if we speak? Do you still care? Where is your faith? You talk in whispers. You are afraid to be heard? Have we become numb and dumb?”
But their declaration was firm: “We are not afraid. We trust in the Lord. We are ready to battle for God's honor. They want to bury us priests. But they forget that we priests are seeds. When you bury us, we will grow more and flourish. You cannot stop the Gospel from growing. You cannot stop God from being God. You cannot muzzle the voice of Truth.”
The Promotion of Church People's Response squarely put the blame on the Duterte administration. In a statement Rev. Irma Balaba and Nardy Sabino said, “We hold the Duterte administration accountable for the massive, wide-spread and unabashed killings of civilians, including religious people. President Duterte’s words that attack the church as well as individuals whom he does not agrees expose them to possible harm rather than protect their democratic rights. These induce and encourage extremist and rightist forces to kill, even to kill church personnel.
They added one name to the list of members of Religious killed: Pastor Lablito Quiñonez of the Guardians of the Truth Church Mission International, Inc. was killed in Mindoro on December 3, 2017, by AFP elements who accused him as a member of New People’s Army.
“The Duterte government has a responsibility to the citizens of this country to end impunity and render swift justice for the victims. We pray and encourage the faithful to stand firm, to defend the sanctity of life and basic human rights, and to come to the aid and accompaniment of the many survivor and victims’ families in seeking truth, justice and accountability,” PCPR said.
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