MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – A priest was killed in Nueva Ecija on Monday night, December 4, hours after he helped facilitate the release of a political prisoner in the province.
Fr Marcelino Paez, 72, was driving along Jaen-Zaragoza road in Barangay Lambakin, Jaen, Nueva Ecija, at around 8 pm when motorcyle-riding suspects shot him, a police report said.
Responding policemen brought him to the Gonzales General Hospital in nearby San Leonardo town where he was declared dead.
The crime scene was still being processed by Scene of the Crime Operatives as of posting.
Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler
Rights group Karapatan said in a Facebook post that Paez was former Guimba parish priest and current coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines in Central Luzon.
The shooting happened hours after he “assisted in facilitating the release of political prisoner Rommel Tucay who was detained at the BJMP jail in Cabanatuan,” Karapatan said.
Tucay, a peasant organizer, was charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives in March after he was reportedly "abducted" and "tortured" by a joint military and police team in Carranglan, Nueva Ecija, said Karapatan.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Jose, Nueva Ecija, condemned the killing of Paezwho was actively involved in social discussions, especially on matters involving human rights, farmers, and the poor.
“Kami, ang kaparian ng Diyosesis ng San Jose, Nueva Ecija, kaisa ng mahal na Obispo, ay mariin na kinukundena ang hindi makatarungan at marahas na pagpaslang kay Fr Tito Paez,” the Diocese of San Jose said in a statement signed by San Jose, Nueva Ecija Bishop Roberto Mallari.
(We, the priests of the Diocese of San Jose, Nueva Ecija, with our Bishop, strongly condemn the unjust and violent killing of Fr Tito Paez.)
“Kami ay nanawagan sa mga kinauukulan sa pamahalaan na bigyang linaw ang kaniyang kamatayan. Kami din ay nanawagan sa lahat ng mananampalataya na ipanalangin na magkaroon ng katarungan ang kaniyang pagkamatay at kapayapaan ng kaniyang kaluluwa,” the diocese added.
(We call on those concerned in the government to shed light on his death. We are also calling on the faithful to pray that his death be given justice, and for the repose of his soul.)
Jalandoni: 'Duterte to blame'
Luis Jalandoni, National Democratic Front (NDF) senior adviser, blamed President Rodrigo Duterte for the death of the priest.