Impunity in the Philippines

Unfair to conclude leftist involvement as motive for ex-priest shooting – police

Lorraine Ecarma
Unfair to conclude leftist involvement as motive for ex-priest shooting – police

RUSTICO TAN. A 2018 photo of Rustico Tan.

Phoebe Sanchez

Police Colonel Engelbert Soriano says they have not ruled out other motives behind Rustico Tan's killing

The Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) said it would be “unfair” to conclude leftist involvement as the reason for the killing of former National Democratic Front of the Philippine (NDFP) consultant and former priest, Rustico Tan.

Police Colonel Engelbert Soriano, the Provincial Director of the CPPO, told Rappler in a phone interview on Monday, March 31, that their office has received reports of Tan’s leftist involvements.

“We have information regarding his involvement in the recruitment and the mobilization of some left-leaning individuals or organizations,” he said.

However, Soriano said they have not ruled out other motives behind Tan’s murder. He added that it would be “unfair” to point to his political affiliations until they have concluded their ongoing investigation.

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“As I’ve said, it’s not fair to base his death on that right away. We still need to get to the bottom of the investigation and identify the perpetrators,” he said.

Tan, 80, was shot dead on the evening of May 28 while asleep on a hammock in his home in the remote island of Pilar, Camotes in Cebu Province. The same night, alleged Communist Party of the Philippines member Reynaldo Bocala was also gunned down in his home in the neighboring Visayan island of Iloilo.

Tan was the chief negotiator for the NDFP-Cebu in 1987. He had been detained multiple times during and post-Martial Law. This includes his disappearance on November 9, 2017 where he was found days later at a district jail in Barangay Cabawan in Tagbilaran, Bohol.

Tan was recently detained once again in 2019 for a murder case. He was later released on recognizance in 2020.


Soriano told media Tan’s family on May 29 – a day after his murder – refused a police request for an autopsy for the investigation.

Rappler is still trying to contact Tan’s family for a comment.

“The local PNP through my office, requested for a conduct of the autopsy but the son who was there at the wake decided not to pursue the autopsy request,” said Soriano.

Meanwhile, Soriano added that as per investigation reports, Tan’s neighbors were able to point out that moments after Tan the incident, they saw a motorcycle speeding “unusually fast” away from the crime scene.

CHR condemnation

In a text message to Rappler on Sunday, May 30, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) – Central Visayas director Arvin Ordon condemned the murder of the former priest.

CHR Central Visayas will be conducting a motu propio investigation on the incident.

“Our Investigation Division was already instructed yesterday to start its probe in the midst of our strong condemnation on the apparent lack of respect of the rule of law and the blatant disregard of the inherent right of the victim to life,” the text message read. –