Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra is considering launching a parallel probe by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on the recent spate of killings of Catholic priests.
Guevarra said he is ready to direct the NBI, the investigative arm of the Department of Justice, to conduct a parallel investigation, but will allow the Philippine National Police (PNP) to take the lead in the investigations first.
“I will give the PNP ample time to do their job. But I will bring in the NBI any time as circumstances may warrant,” Guevarra said in a text message to reporters.
He said the NBI would be brought in if the police fail to make headway in the cases—three murders in the last six months.
Fr. Richmond Nilo was shot dead June 10 while preparing for a Mass in Zaragoza town, Nueva Ecija. Police have already arrested one of the primary suspects in the killing that probers attributed to a land dispute.
Nilo was the third priest killed in recent months.
On April 29, Fr. Mark Ventura was killed in Cagayan after celebrating a Mass. Fr. Marcelito Paez, on the other hand, was shot dead in Nueva Ecija on Dec. 5.
Senator Risa Hontiveros has already called for a Senate inquiry and filed Resolution 764 for the Senate Committee on Public Order to look into the murders of Nilo, Ventura, and Paez.
The resolution also includes the case of Fr. Rey Urmeneta of Calamba, Laguna, who survived an attack.
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.
Hontiveros said she believed the killings are not isolated cases as the police say.
Hontiveros also echoed the sentiment of senior clergymen that the President’s verbal attacks might encourage 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.
Duterte has been critical of 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 sh*t.
Malacanang, on the other hand, claimed that the spate of killings of priests was an attempt by “lawless elements” to discredit the administration’s strides in the peace and order situation in the country.