A young Catholic priest was shot dead in Cagayan province on Sunday, becoming the second cleric slain in around four months.
Fr. Mark Ventura, 37, was shot dead at 8 a.m. right after celebrating Mass at a gymnasium in Brgy. Peña Weste, on the outskirts of Gattaran town.
A report from the Thomas Aquinas Major Seminary, where Ventura was a former rector, said the priest was shot by an unidentified assailants who fled on board a motorcycle.
Gattaran police report said Ventura just finished the mass and was blessing children and meeting with the choir members when the suspect suddenly appeared from behind and shot him twice. He died on the spot.
After shooting the priest, police report said, the suspect who was wearing a helmet ran towards the National Highway where another suspect, also wearing a helmet, was waiting.
Ventura served as the director of San Isidro Labrador Mission Station, a post he only assumed early this month, in Mabuno village, also Gattaran.
Witnesses said the suspects headed towards Baggao town.
A priest for almost seven years, he was also known for his anti-mining advocacies and for helping indigenous peoples in the province.
In December 2017, Fr. Marcelito Paez was killed by still unidentified gunmen in Jaen, Nueva Ecija.
The 72-year-old priest was gunned down after he facilitated the release of a political prisoner.
In the Senate, Partido Liberal president Francis Pangilinan has condemned the killing of Ventura.
“The brazen attack on the 37-year-old Fr. Ventura, known for his advocacy against mining and being of aid to indigenous peoples, has no place in our society and under this administration which boasts of prioritizing law and order and brags about reduced crime rates.
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.
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,” Pangilinan’s statement read.