Press Release
June 13, 2018


"Are Catholic priests being 'tokhanged'?"

This was the question raised by Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday after she filed a resolution calling on the Senate to conduct an investigation in aid of legislation on the spate of killings and attempted killings of Catholic priests under the Duterte administration.

Hontiveros said that there is a dangerous pattern emerging with the spate of killings and attempted killings of Catholic priests.

"Is there a systematic attempt to kill Catholic priests who are critical of the administration? Tinotokhang na rin ba ang mga pari ng simbahang Katoliko na naglakas loob na ipahayag ang kanilang kritikal na boses sa laganap na patayan, katiwalian at pang-aabuso?" Hontiveros said.

The opposition Senator stressed that the killings are not isolated incidents.

"These killings come on the heels of continued verbal attacks of President Rodrigo Duterte on the Catholic Church and its religious leaders particularly in light of the Catholic Church's strong critique of the present administration's War on Drugs," Hontiveros observed.

"The killings also 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?" Hontiveros said.

The Senator also lamented the government's dismissive attitude towards the killings. She said that President Duterte even released a matrix maligning the name of Father Ventura after his death.

"I fear that the President's verbal attacks as well as the dismissive attitude towards the killings may inspire more priest-murders and other acts of violence on members of religious communities," Hontiveros said.

Proposed Senate Resolution No. 764 is directing the Senate Committee on Public Order to look into the killings of Fr. Richmond Nilo of the Diocese of Cabanatuan who was gunned down by unidentified assailants inside a chapel on June 10, 2018, Cagayan priest Fr. Mark Ventura, a known anti-mining advocate, who was shot dead last April 28 by riding-in-tandem assassins as he was blessing children after celebrating mass, and Father Marcelito "Tito" Paez, a human rights advocate who was murdered on December 4.

The resolution also seeks to investigate the violent attack against Fr. Rey Urmeneta of Calamba, Laguna who was severely wounded and rushed to the hospital after being shot at by unidentified assailants last June 6.

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