Sotto rejects Senate probe into priest slays

Sherri Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 14 2018 11:23 AM

MANILA - Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Thursday criticized a proposal to mount a legislative inquiry into the assassination of 3 priests in the last 6 months.

“What will we inquire?” Sotto told reporters.

“I think the [Philippine National Police] should be tasked to go after the solution of the case… I wonder what legislation can be taken up if that is already in the Revised Penal Code,” he added.

Sotto said he prefers the investigation on the killings to focus on the law enforcement aspect and for the Senate to distance itself from the “political” angle of the cases.
“Pagka ganyan, political na 'yan. 'Wag ganoon. Ilayo na natin ang pulitika sa imbestigasyon,” he said.

(That is already political. Let's take the investigation away from politics.)

Summoning police officials to the Senate, he said, will also disrupt their own investigation.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday called for a Senate inquiry into the slays of Rev. Fr. Richmond Nilo, Rev. Fr. Mark Anthony Ventura and Rev. Fr. Marcelito Paez.

Nilo, a priest in Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen as he was about to celebrate Mass last Sunday.

In April 2018, Ventura was shot dead by an unidentified gunman after celebrating Mass in Gattaran, Cagayan.

Paez, 72, was gunned down by unidentified assailants in December 2017 after assisting in the release of a political prisoner in the town of Jaen, Nueva Ecija.

Sotto said the death of the 3 Catholic priests cannot be considered as alarming or part of a pattern, considering that there are 100 million Filipinos in the country.

He also dismissed the suggestion of Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle to look into the proliferation of loose firearms in the country.

The Philippines, Sotto said, has stiffer laws on gun acquisition compared to the US, as shown by Manila's yearly renewal requirement for firearm owners.

“Talagang kailangan lang mahigpit ang pagpapatupad natin ng batas, enforcement and prosecution... Hindi ako sang-ayon na ngayon lang nangyari 'yan,” he said.

(We only need to tighten the implementation of the law, the enforcement and prosecution. I don't agree that this is a new occurrence.)

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra's suggestion to arm state prosecutors, meanwhile, should be observed on a “case-to-case basis”, said the Senate President.