Palace to prioritize probe into Nueva Ecija priest slay
By Azer Parrocha
MANILA (Philippines News Agency) — Malacañang on Monday condemned the killing of Fr. Richmond Nilo of the Diocese of Cabanatuan, the third Catholic priest killed in the country since late last year, noting that it will make the case among its top priorities.
Reports showed that Nilo was shot dead by unidentified gunmen four times while he was about to celebrate mass in a chapel in Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija Sunday evening.
“Kinokondena po natin iyang pagpatay dito sa pari na taga Nueva Ecija (We condemn the killing of the priest from Nueva Ecija,” Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Palace briefing.
“Asahan ninyo po na mabibigyan ng pinaka-top priority ang pag-iimbestiga dito sa pagpatay na naman ng isang pari (You can expect that we will give top priority to investigating the killing of another priest),” he added.
Roque said that he will personally coordinate with Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director General Oscar Albayalde to monitor developments on the case.
“Ako na po ang tututok kay General Albayalde mismo para malaman ko ang estado ng imbestigasyon. Mabilis naman pong gumalaw ang ating kapulisan (I will coordinate with General Albayalde himself to know the status of the investigation. Our police work quickly),” Roque said.
Roque said that the government is considering to either create a new task force to focus on the killings of Catholic priests or pass it on to the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS), which is headed by Communications Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco.
The PTFoMS was created through Administration Order No. 01 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in October 2016 to address media killings and harassment.
“Itong pagpatay po ng mga kaparian titingnan po natin kung kinakailangan pa ng Special Task Force or kung ipapasok na lang natin dito ito kay Usec. Egco ‘no (On the killing of priests, we are assessing whether there is a need for a Special Task Force or if we can give it to Usec. Ego),” Roque said.
Asked if the consecutive killings of priests can be associated to Duterte’s attacks against the Catholic church, Roque said that he did not see “any empirical basis” for such claims.
Roque pointed out the culture of impunity has been around since the time of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“I don’t think there is any empirical basis for that ‘no. Ang masasabi ko lang po itong kultura ng impunity ay naririyan na po bago pa pumasok ang ating Presidente (I can only say that this culture of impunity has been there even before our President came in),” Roque said.
“Kung maaalala ninyo (If you remember) UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killing Philip Alston as of the time of GMA already confirmed that there is a breach of the right to life as far as extra legal killings are concerned,” he added.
Roque assured that the government is taking steps to address the killings of priests as well as journalists in the Philippines. (PNA)