A PRIEST was shot dead in Cagayan province after holding Mass on Sunday morning, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) reported on its Web site also on Sunday.
Catholic priest Mark Ventura, 37, was murdered at about 8:15 a.m. right after celebrating Mass at a gymnasium in Peña Weste village on the outskirts of Gattaran town.
Fr. Ventura is the second cleric slain in around four months, CBCP said, citing too Fr. Marcelito Paez’s murder in December last year by still unidentified gunmen in Jaen, Nueva Ecija.
CBCP also cited reports by the Police Regional Office No. 2 in Tuguegarao City that Fr. Ventura was blessing children and talking with choir members when an unidentified man donning a motorcycle helmet emerged from the back of the gym and shot the priest twice.
The reports also quoted Philippine National Police chief Director-General Oscar D. Albayalde as saying the suspect ran towards a nearby highway and rode on a single motorcycle driven by another unidentified companion as they fled towards the direction of Baggao, Cagayan.
Davao Archbishop and CBCP president Romulo G. Valles was quoted as saying in the CBCP report: “We are totally shocked and in utter disbelief to hear about the brutal killing of Fr. Mark Ventura.”
The bishops appealed to the authorities “to act swiftly in going after the perpetrators of this crime and to bring them to justice.”
CBCP said Fr. Ventura recently assumed the post of director of the San Isidro Labrador Mission Station in Mabuno village, also in Gattaran, and was under the Tuguegarao archdiocese for almost seven years.
Mr. Ventura was also known for his anti-mining advocacies and for helping the indigenous peoples in the province, CBCP said.
In a statement, Senator Franklin N. Pangilinan said in part, “We call on the authorities to capture and prosecute Fr. Ventura’s killers as soon as possible and not treat Fr. Ventura’s death as just another death under investigation wherein perpetrators are never held accountable, as in the case of Fr. Marcelito Paez, who was also killed by unidentified gunmen in Jaen, Nueva Ecija five months ago in December 2017.”
The senator added: “We hope that Fr. Ventura’s death is not a reflection of our nation’s character in light of the recent actions of the government against Sister Patricia Fox — an aid worker for the past 27 years who has been ordered kicked out of the country on baseless claims that she is out to besmirch the government.”