Some 188 priests and 58 ministers have requested the Philippine National Police for permits to carry firearms outside their residences.
The period covers June 2017 to June 2018, a time characterized by concerns over the safety of religious leaders, even as the PNP has yet to say how this number compares to previous periods.
The latest incidence of violence against priests was in Nueva Ecija two weeks ago. Forty-four-year-old Fr. Richmond Nilo was preparing to say Sunday Mass when he was gunned down right inside his chapel.
Other recent shootings took place in Laguna, Cagayan and another town in Nueva Ecija.
But while some priests have sought to arm themselves against what appears to be growing animosity against them, their leaders are not keen on the idea. Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Florencio said it would breed more chaos without solving anything. Balanga Bishop Ruperto Santos would not allow arming priests in his diocese.
“Sacrifices and sufferings are part and parcel of being priests,” he said.
Indeed a religious vocation is a decision to embrace difficulties and danger. Carrying guns even for self-defense implies a readiness to respond with violence to violence—and do not the teachings say “Thou shall not kill”?
That taking up arms runs counter to the basic premises of priesthood is a matter that should be resolved by the priests and their leaders.
Meanwhile, those of us who look on can only shake our heads at the impunity of those who target these religious figures. Have we gone so low?
Everybody, it seems, is fair game these days. It’s a shame that those who preach non-violence and peace now feel compelled to go against what they say for self-preservation. The solution—ridding society of lawless elements that feel emboldened to kill whomever they please—is clear. The way to achieve this, however, remains a mystery. The public is torn between the message that they can now feel safer in their homes and on the streets on the one hand, and the reality that they see on the ground, on the other.