By SHERWIN DE VERA & KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY (updated 05 May 2018, 4:15 pm) — The head of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) led the Aglipayan community in condemning the murder of a young priest in Cagayan province as a Catholic priest and friend of the victim prays for justice.
Fr. Mark Ventura, assigned to the San Isidro Labrador Mission Station in Brgy. Mabuno in Gattaran, was killed on Sunday, April 29. He had just finished saying mass and was talking to choir members when an unknown assailant shot him at close range according to police report.
The Most Reverend Rhee M. Timbang, Obispo Maximo, said the incident should remind everybody of the prevailing impunity in the country.
He blamed the administration for the failure to “concretely address the issue” and for ignoring the escalating “extrajudicial killings and human rights violations” under this already two year old regime.
“I extend the IFI’s solidarity to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tuguegarao, to its beloved Bishop and clergy in its effort to seek justice…,” said the bishop.
He urged their members in the area “to cooperate and closely work” with other churches to fight the attacks against church workers.
The church’s priest association in North Central Luzon made a similar pronouncement on Sunday evening.
“Reports say that Fr. Ventura was an advocate for people’s rights and protection of the environment. His murder is a manifestation of the intent of the present administration to silence the church and progressives,” Rev. Roderick Labog, head of the organization, said. Adding that their ranks is one with the Catholics in “demanding justice for Fr. Ventura and other victims of state violence.”
IFI separated from the Roman Catholic Church led by Filipino revolutionaries Fr. Gregorio Aglipay and Isabelo delos Reyes in 1902 to assert genuine independence from the Spanish friars.
Meanwhile, Fr. Manny Flores, Jr. of the Diocese of Baguio said he could not understand why his friend and colleague was brutally killed. “We can not help but ask why as we pray for justice for Fr. Mark,” he said.
Fr. Flores said that he went to the seminary with Fr. Ventura. He said that Fr. Ventura is a soft spoken and kind person, which is why he could not fathom why anybody would want to kill him.
Fr. Flores said that as priests they know that speaking the truth and standing with the people could cause them harm. “But we must continue with our work, to spread the good news of salvation, to speak the truth and to serve the poor and down trodden as we fully entrust our lives to God, so that whatever happens to us will serve His grand plan,” he said. #
Read the full statement below.
MAY THE BLOOD OF ANOTHER SLAIN SERVANT OF THE CHURCH AND PROPHET OF GOD AWAKEN OUR SENSES
I speak as the head and spiritual leader of the Iglesia Filipina Independente (IFI) to strongly condemn the brutal killing of Fr. Mark Ventura, a Roman Catholic priest of the Diocese of Tuguegarao, right after officiating the Holy Eucharist at Pene Weste, Gattaran, Cagayan Province on April 29, 2018.
He was shot to death by unidentified assailant in front of his congregation who are mostly children and young people. It was an act that reminds us of the impunity that has been occurring in our society. It so continued to rampage simply because the Duterte administration did not concretely address this issue of impunity. In fact, extra-judicial killings and human rights violations are ignored by this present government.
There are reasons to silence a prophet whose advocacy against mining, support on the struggle of the indigenous people, work as head of the migrant desk of the Diocese of Tuguegarao and help for the poor people of Cagayan province may have probably offended the selfish interest and agenda of influential people in his area. These forms of advocacies and ministries would certainly at present time endanger a life of a servant of God but these are part of the calling of all church peoples in exercising their ordination. This may be a risky, a less-travelled road, yet a noble, honorable and praise-worthy cause which the martyred Fr. Mark Ventura opted to follow in faithfulness to his calling. He could have chosen to look the other way and enjoyed his comfort zone in a well-privileged church. But he did not: the priest, pastor and prophet in him prevailed because in his ordination God made him a witness for truth, for peace and for justice among the people placed under his charge.
In behalf of the IFI, I express our condolences and prayers to the bereaved families, congregation, followers and friends of Fr. Mark Ventura. I pray that his martyrdom would move the people who love and work for justice, lasting peace and abundant life. The blood of the prophet which was being offered in the name of justice and righteousness should not be covered with tears and fears. Our sadness and dismay must be transformed into a struggling spirit so that a just and lasting peace will come to reality.
I extend the IFI’s solidarity to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tuguegarao, to its beloved bishop and clergy in its effort to find justice on the death of Fr. Mark Ventura and other victims of extra-judicial killings and human rights violations in the province.
I urge our bishop, clergy and faithful in the IFI Diocese of Tuguegarao to cooperate and closely work with all church people, especially with the Roman Catholic, to gain more strength to face this church persecution and repression. Our unity must be a strong force to reckon with in this time of faith-shaking brutal murder of Fr. Mark Ventura.
I join with other quarters of our society in calling the Duterte regime to end impunity, respect human rights and stop the extra-judicial killings in the country. Together with other national leaders, I also ask the government to show its seriousness of bringing the perpetrators into court and execute penalty in fairness and in justice, with dispatch. The cries for justice for Fr. Mark Ventura are also the cries of thousands who are victims of extra-judicial killings.
I call on our people to be more vigilant and conscious of safety. The death of Fr. Mark Ventura, the earlier killing of Fr. Tito Paez of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Jose, Nueva Ecija, the impending deportation of an Australian missionary, Sr. Patricia Fox, the incarceration of our own IFI Bishop Carlo Morales of Ozamiz City and the intimidations and harassments of many church people who supported the poor, deprived and oppressed people are but the acts of the powers-that-be intended to silence the servants of the church and prophets of God.
Let us indeed be wary that we live in a very dangerous times and our vocation places ourselves on the firing line. Borrowing the words from one IFI priest: “If they could kill a priest, showed no mercy to an elderly nun, and unjustly imprisoned a bishop, then what will prevent them from killing the innocents and oppressing the poor and the weak.”
Yet these times also call us to follow the way of the Lord and the examples of the prophets, for their blood waters the courageous faith of church people. Let us not waver to pray and work for truth, peace and justice until they flow out like living streams in our midst.
30 April 2018