By LEILANIE ADRIANO
LAOAG CITY — Catholics in northern Philippines hold on to their beaded rosaries as they let go white balloons in the air to commemorate the death anniversary of murdered priest Florante Rigonan.On August 25, Father Engelbert Elarmo led a prayer at the Catholic priest cemetery in here.
Newly elected Diocesan administrator, Msgr. Ian Rabago said on the same day that all parishes in Ilocos Norte are adviced to include their prayers for Fr. Rigonan on Sunday mass.
“We pray and cooperate with authorities. There should be no culture of impunity and let the rule of law prevail,” Rabago said. Though the Rigonan case is dragging, he said the Catholic Church still hopes that justice will be served soon.
“We are not stopping until justice is served. If we stop now, the perpetuators will continue. If they had done it to a priest, how much more to our small brothers and sisters who have no say in our community,” he added.
Four years ago, unidentified gunmen shot Rigonan in Puritac village on August 28, after he left the house of some former overseas workers couple who raised millions of pesos to build a local parish church.
Investigators at that time had recommended charging two donorsf relatives, after witnesses claimed they resented the generosity and affection shown by their family members toward the priest.
Then provincial prosecutor Melecio Felipe at the Ilocos Norte Marcos Hall of Justice in Laoag City created a panel of prosecutors to evaluate the evidence and determine whether there is enough ground to conduct preliminary investigation. The body however returned the case to the Rigonan Task Force saying, the evidence gathered based on testimonies of several witnesses could hardly pin down the suspects.
Then last year, the police claimed to have gained a breakthrough in Rigonan’s killing.
Provincial director Marlou Chan of the Ilocos Norte Police Provincial Office (INPPO) based in Camp Valentin S. Juan Laoag City reported earlier ballistics report linked the killing of Rigonan to at least five other fatal shootings in the province. Investigators have also traced the gunfs serial number used in the killing.
On Thursday, Col. Dominador Halog of the INPPO said the provincial director has ordered to expedite solving pending cases including that of Fr. Rigonan.
As of press time, Halog said investigators continue to gather evidence and possible eyewitnesses.
Earlier, the provincial task force on anti-private armed groups reported a total of 79 loose firearms confiscated, surrendered and recovered from January to August this month.
The chairman of the task force, Atty. Windell Chua said, the campaign against loose firearms has increased by 8 percent when compared of the same period last year.
The Ilocos Norte government led by Gov. Imee R. Marcos said, “if there are no guns, no one gets killed.” # nordis.net