Four months after the death of Roman Catholic priest Marcelino “Tito” Paez, another man of the cloth was killed on Sunday after celebrating the morning Mass in Gattaran, Cagayan.
Fr. Mark Anthony Ventura, known for his anti-mining advocacy, was in the middle of blessing the children and talking to the choir in a gymnasium in Barangay Piña Weste when he was shot on the head and chest.
The 37-year-old priest was the second priest to be killed after Paez, a staunch human rights advocate, was gunned down in Jaen, Nueva Ecija last December.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines was “shocked” with Ventura’s death and described it as an “evil act.”
“We condemn this evil act! We make our appeal to the authorities to act swiftly in going after the perpetrators of this crime and to bring them to justice,” Archbishop Romulo Valles said in an official statement.
While local police have yet to determine the motive of the killing, the Anakbayan party-list deemed it to be the result of President Rodrigo Duterte’s “fascist” campaign.
“Its fascist campaign has rendered people from the religious sector as legitimate targets of killings, intimidation and harassment for speaking up not only against the madman’s bloody war on drugs but also against the social and political injustices perpetrated by the regime,” the group stated on its website.
Religious workers in peril
In its message, the left-leaning group Anakbayan alleged that Tito Paez was gunned down by “suspected state forces” after he facilitated the release of a political detainee, Rommel Tucay, earlier that day.
The 72-year-old priest was the coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines in Central Luzon and had also campaigned for the removal of US military bases in the region and other parts of the country in the 1980s.
While Paez and Ventura’s deaths were the ones widely denounced, there are also several religious workers who were victims of unexplained killings.
UCA News recalled the alleged killing of a pastor of the King Glory Ministry due to a firefight with the police in Mindoro Oriental.
Perfecto Hoyle, a lay pastor of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines, was also shot dead in Agusan del Norte.
Calls for justice
The Liberal Party openly expressed its dismay over the deadly assault on the Cagayan priest.
“We call on authorities to capture and prosecute Fr. Ventura’s killers as soon as possible and not treat Fr. Ventura’s death as just another death under investigation,” Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, the LP president, said on Facebook.
People on social media also echoed the CBCP’s sentiments against the murder of the Tuguegarao priest.
Sobrang salbahe ng pumaslang kay Fr. Mark Ventura… dahil lamang sa nanindigan sya sa mga mahihirap na tumutuligsa sa pagmimina… https://t.co/g02OB8ThKd
— KB: Mulawin_Aiai? (@aiaiayyy) April 30, 2018