Groups condemn killing of Cagayan priest

BAGUIO CITY — Human rights and church groups expressed disdain and alarm over the brazen killing of a Catholic clergy Sunday morning in Cagayan province.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Cagayan Valley condemned the attack, saying that it “underscores the impunity that permeates in the society today.” The group also attributed the incident to President Rodrigo Duterte’s “desire to cause suffering of many Filipino” without accountability.

Unidentified gunman shot and killed 37 years old priest Mark Anthony Ventura, a native of Tuao, after officiating mass at Brgy. Pena Weste, Gattaran. The assailant fled on motorcycle driven by a second person.

“The killing of Fr. Ventura sends a chilling message that anybody, at any given time can be killed. This incident highlights the alarming culture of impunity in the country,” said Mary Ann Gabayan, Secretary-General of Ilocos Human Rights Alliance.

The young cleric has just assumed directorship of the San Isidro Labrador Mission Station last month in Mabuno, also in the same town. He also heads the archdiocese’s Migrant Desk. A priest for seven years, Ventura also served as rector of the Thomas Aquinas Major Seminary according to the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines’ news service.

Ventura is known for his advocacy against destructive mining, indigenous peoples rights and good governance.

Meanwhile, the Ilocos Region Ecumenical Council condemned the killing. The group said that “church people are being persecuted, attacked and killed under Duterte at an alarming rate.”

Monsignor Albert Rabe, a respected member of the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia, in a Facebook post recalled the slain cleric as “a young priest who passionately worked for basic ecclesial community.” He was among those who learned from Sinait, Ilocos Sur, the former parish of Rabe, in 2010.

An emotional prayer for the murdered priest was offered on the place of incident led by a tearful Tuguegarao Archbishop Sergio Utleg. Members and the faithful of the Archdiocese called for the swift delivery of justice.

Ventura is the second cleric of the Roman Catholic church assassinated under Duterte’s presidency.

Fr. Marcelito Paez, 72, a human rights advocate was killed in Jaen, Nueva Ecija after overseeing the release of a political prisoner on December last year. #Sherwin De Vera

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