MANILA - The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has condemned the killing of a priest from Nueva Ecija, calling it an "outrageously evil act."
In a statement released on Monday, CBCP President and Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles said they are deeply saddened and terribly disturbed over the killing of Rev. Fr. Richmond Nilo, parish priest of St. Vincent Ferrer Parish in the Diocese of Cabanatuan.
"We pray for the eternal repose of the soul of Fr. Nilo. We also offer our prayer for his beraved family," the prelate said.
"We join in prayer with the clergy, the religious, and the lay faithful of the Diocese of Cabanatuan as they face the brutal death of their own priest at the hand of bloody murderers..."
Earlier, the Diocese of Cabanatuan also released a statement condemning the killing of its priest. The diocese also expressed its concern over the "escalating violence and culture of impunity in the country even against helpless clergymen."
Fr. Nilo was about to begin Mass in a church in Zaragoza Sunday night, when unidentified gunmen shot him dead.
He was the third Catholic priest to be killed in the span of six months.
In December 2017, Rev. Fr. Marcelito Paez was also gunned down by unidentified assailants after assisting the release of a political prisoner in the town of Jaen, Nueva Ecija.
In April 2018, Rev. Fr. Mark Anthony Ventura was also shot dead by an unidentified gunman after celebrating a Mass in Gattaran, Cagayan.
Meanwhile, Fr. Rey Urmenta, a former PNP chaplain, survived an ambush in Calamba, Laguna just last week.
Valles, a friend of the family of President Rodrigo Duterte, appealed to the government for a swift resolution of the case.
"We make our appeal once again to the police authorities to act swiftly in the investigation and to go after the perpetrators of the heinous crime and bring them to justice," the archbishop added.
Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Oscar Albayalde said the killing of Fr. Nilo was an isolated case.