MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Wednesday, June 13, condemned the killing of 3 priests but was silent on calls for President Rodrigo Duterte to stop his tirades against the Catholic Church.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque issued a statement in response to Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas’ strongly worded statement after the murders of Nueva Ecija priest Father Richmond Nilo, Father Mark Anthony Ventura in Cagayan, and Father Marcelito Paez in another part of Nueva Ecija.
“We join the Catholic bishops and faithful in condemning the murder of Catholic priests, namely, Fr Mark Ventura, Fr Tito Paez, and Fr Richmond Nilo,” Roque said on Wednesday.
He said the Philippine National Police would pursue investigations until those responsible for the deaths are brought to justice. The police would also work with the Church “on measures to protect priests,” added the presidential spokesman.
He also said that Duterte’s “intensified campaign” against criminality should improve the peace and order situation in the country.
Roque made no mention of Villegas’ call for Duterte to stop his verbal attacks against the Church. The archbishop said such threats and insults could “embolden more crimes against priests.”
When Roque was asked last Monday, June 11, if he thought there was a link between Duterte’s strong words and the deaths of priests, he said: “I don’t think there is any empirical basis for that. All I can say is that the culture of impunity was there even before our President came in.”
In his Wednesday statement, he said certain “lawless elements” are “exploiting” the murders of the priests in order to divide society.
“In this nationwide drive, lawless elements will seek to block our efforts by sowing division and creating animosity, even exploiting crimes like the killings of priests,” Roque said, without elaborating. – Rappler.com