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They Are Killing Priests in the Philippines

Kelvene Requiroso

Posted on June 14, 2018 02:42

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Duterte’s tirades, negative rhetoric and verbal attacks against the Catholic Church have emboldened fanatics to commit crimes leaving three priests killed in six months.

In 12th-century England, King Henry II had disagreements with Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until his death eight years later. The king was displeased with the “meddlesome priest” and sent him to exile in France.

When Becket returned to England on Dec. 29, 1170, four of the king’s blind fanatics hacked him to death. They believed the vicar’s murder would please the king. But Henry II became penitent, offered penance and had the erring knights disgraced. After three years, Becket was made a saint.

What does an anti-clergy rhetoric by a powerful leader do? In the Philippines, three priests down in six months.

In the last two years, the Philippines has turned into Rodrigo Duterte’s killing field. His infamous drug war claimed over 22,000 lives, most of them poor. And the Catholic Church was outspoken on the president’s human rights records.

Based on the plurality of votes he received in the 2016 general election, the president has 16 million supporters. With his tirades against the church, Duterte has emboldened fanatics to do stupid things. He mocked the teachings of the church, cursed the clergy and accused the priests of womanizing, corruption and hypocrisy.

Rev. Richmond Nilo was preparing for a Sunday afternoon mass on June 10 when he died. Two gunmen fired shots at the 43-year-old priest through the window of Nuestra Senora de la Nieve Chapel in a rural town of Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija. He was the third member of the clergy killed since December 2017.

Nilo was a cleric for 17 years, serving as a priest of St. Vincent Ferrer Parish. He helped local farmers with their land disputes and provided protection for rape victims. He also engaged in theological discussions with a local cult supportive of Duterte, the secretive but politically influential Iglesia ni Cristo (INC).

He was murdered in one of the community chapels he celebrated Masses on Sundays in Zaragoza.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan said in a statement, “They are killing our flock. They are killing us the shepherds. … But we are not a nation of killers.”

Villegas decried the killing as “wrong,” “un-Filipino” and “un-Christian.”

Before Nilo’s death, two priests were murdered by men riding in tandem on a motorcycle. Rev. Marcelito Paez, 72, of Jaen, Nueva Ecija, was killed in an ambush while driving his car on Dec. 4. On April 29, unidentified assassins shot dead the 37-year-old Rev. Mark Anthony Ventura of Gattaran, Cagayan Valley.

While the police alleged Nilo’s murder was an “isolated case,” three killings in six months reveal otherwise. And the drug war-related deaths are not isolated either. Duterte has long relished the idea that killing is the answer to the nation’s perceived ills. He’s keen on keeping his macabre campaign promise to fill Manila Bay with dead bodies.

If Henry II was penitent and remorseful, Duterte stands on the contrary. That is the difference. So sinister, isn’t it?

Kelvene Requiroso

Posted on June 14, 2018 02:42

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Source: NYT

Rodrigo Duterte, left, in the early 1990s, as mayor of Davao City, helping a policeman.

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