Hontiveros wants Senate probe into attacks on priests

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Hontiveros wants Senate probe into attacks on priests

Gaea Katreena Cabico (philstar.com) – June 13, 2018 – 1:57pm

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday asked for a Senate inquiry into recent killings of Catholic priests.

Hontiveros filed Senate Resolution 764 for the Senate Committee on Public Order to look into the murders of Fr. Richmond Nilo, Fr. Mark Ventura and Fr. Marcelito “Tito” Paez.

The resolution also calls for a probe into an attack against Fr. Rey Urmeneta of Calamba, Laguna.

In filing the measure, the minority senator claimed there is a “dangerous pattern” emerging with the spate of killings and attempted killings of members of the clergy.

“Is there a systematic attempt to kill Catholic priests who are critical of the administration? Are the priests who express opposition to the widespread killings, corruption and abuses now the targets of ‘tokhang’?” Hontiveros said in a mix of English and Filipino, referring to the government’s “knock and plead” operations against suspected drug personalities.

Critics of the administration blame drug-related deaths on “Tokhang”, although the government only acknowledges more than 4,200 who were killed in anti-narcotics operations. The government maintains that those who died violently resisted arrest and gave law enforcement no choice but to kill them.

Hontiveros said the killings are not isolated cases as there have been three priests killed in the last six months.

“These killings and attempted killing come on the heels of continued verbal attacks of President Rodrigo Duterte on the Catholic Church and its religious leaders particularly in light of the Catholic Church’s strong critique of the present administration’s war on drugs policy, with the president even releasing a matrix maligning the name of Fr. Ventura after his death,” the resolution read.

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Hontiveros also echoed the sentiment of senior clergymen that the president’s verbal attacks might feed violence against priests.

“These killings further reinforce the culture of impunity to silence valid Church-led criticisms on state policies, particularly those with respect to human rights and due process,” she said.

In several instances, Duterte lambasted the Catholic Church, questioning its teachings and even accusing priests of engaging in corruption. At one point, he said that the Catholic Church is “full of ****.”

In a statement Wednesday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque claimed that the spate of killings of priests was an attempt my “lawless elements” to discredit the administration’s strides in the peace and order situation in the country. The government has in the past said the same about the drug-related deaths.

Philippine National Police Director General Oscar Albayalde said that the police force is treating Fr. Nilo’s case seriously.

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