MANILA, Philippines – The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Monday, June 11, condemned the murder of Nueva Ecija priest Father Richmond Nilo, 43, inside a community chapel as he was preparing to say Sunday Mass.
“We strongly condemn this outrageously evil act!” said CBCP president Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles in a statement sent to reporters on Monday afternoon.
Valles said the CBCP is “deeply saddened and terribly disturbed that another priest was brutally killed.”
Nilo was the 3rd Catholic priest to be murdered in the Philippines since December 2017.
This comes as more than 16,000 people have died in so-called “deaths under investigation” according to the police, or extrajudicial killings according to government critics, since Rodrigo Duterte became Philippine president.
The Catholic Church is one of the loudest voices against this spate of killings in the Philippines.
‘Treacherously gunned down’
On Monday, the Diocese of Cabanatuan, where the slain priest belonged to, issued a separate statement about the death of Nilo.
In his statement, Cabanatuan Bishop Sofronio Bancud said Nilo was not only parish priest of Saint Vincent Ferrer Parish in Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija, but also financial administrator of the Diocese of Cabanatuan.
Bancud on Monday said Nilo “was treacherously gunned down yesterday evening by still unidentified hired killers as he was about to celebrate the community’s Sunday Mass inside the Nuestra Señora dela Nieve Chapel in Barangay Mayamot, Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija.”
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms and deeply mourn the brutal murder of Fr Richmond V. Nilo, and the escalating violence and culture of impunity in the country, even against helpless clergymen,” Bancud said.
“We demand for justice, for a thorough and impartial investigation of the case, and for its swift resolution, as we likewise appeal to those who might have material knowledge on this matter to please cooperate with police authorities,” he added.
“Indeed it is a tragic day and an irreparable loss for the local Church of Cabanatuan and for all people of goodwill. May his death lead us all to love and live the Catholic faith which Fr Richmond, in his nearly 17 years in the priesthood, undoubtedly loved.”
Nilo was supposed to celebrate his 44th birthday on July 27, less than two months after his death.
Police reputation at stake
Sought for comment about Nilo’s death, Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David voiced concern about the culture of impunity in the Philippines. David, who is also vice president of the CBCP, is bishop of what he calls “killing fields” in Duterte’s anti-drug campaign.
“It is when people can literally ‘get away with murder’ that impunity becomes a culture,” David said on Monday in a Facebook message to Rappler.
“The moment we dismiss the victims casually as ‘drug suspects, criminals, adulterers’ before the cases are even resolved, we already justify murder and no longer even see it as a crime to be investigated and resolved,” he said.
“In certain instances where the families of victims are unable to pursue justice, violence will tend to beget violence. We’ll have reason to be seriously worried when people begin to take the law in their own hands,” David added.
He reiterated his call for the Philippine National Police (PNP) to thoroughly investigate the killings in the country.
“For every additional case of killing, the reputation and effectiveness of the police as an institution is at stake. Aside from Father Tito Paez, Father Mark Ventura, and Father Richmond Nilo, how many hundreds of ‘deaths under investigation’ still remain unresolved?” David said.
“We hope that the PNP will really conduct a serious investigation not just on the killing of priests but also on the killing of ‘drug suspects,’ whether by the police or by unidentified assailants,” the bishop of Caloocan added. – Rappler.com