A CATHOLIC priest and a Christian pastor, believed to be sympathetic to the causes of the Communist Party of the Philippines were shot dead in separate incidents this week—a move branded by leftists as part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s crackdown against militants.
Roman Catholic activist-priest Fr. Marcelito “Tito” Paez, 72, was driving his vehicle along a road in Jaen town, Nueva Ecija, at 8 p.m. when he was attacked by still-unidentified motorcycle-riding assailants Monday night. He was taken to San Leonardo Hospital but died while being treated, Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said in a statement.
Earlier that day, Paez assisted in facilitating the release of political prisoner Rommel Tucay who was detained at the jail in Cabanatuan City.
Paez was the coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines in Central Luzon at the time of his death, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines said. The bishops condemened Paez’s killing.
In the 1980s, Paez was also a leader of the Central Luzon Alliance for a Sovereign Philippines (CLASP) and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Central Luzon, which campaigned for the removal of the US military bases and against the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.
Tucay, an organizer of the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson-Nueva Ecija was arrested in March this year by soldiers of the Philippine Army’s 56th infantry battallion from his house in Carranglan.
On Sunday, Lovelito Quiñones, 57, a pastor of Kings Glory Ministry in Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro, was shot by members of the Regional Mobile Group in Sitio Anapla, Brgy. Don Pedro.
According to the victim’s family, Quinones was on his motorcycle on his way home, when he was allegedly shot by still unknown assailants coming from the RMG.
While the 4th Infantry Division alleged there was an encounter in the area, the 203rd Brigade released another statement insisting that the pastor was a member of the New Peoples’ Army.
Karapatan said that the attacks even on the religious are part of the “chilling effect” of the Duterte regime’s fascist policies and pronouncements.
“Indeed, this fascist and terrorist regime has turned the entire country into a killing field, which renders nobody safe. Priests, doctors, lawyers, students, human rights defenders, peasant and indigenous communities, and urban poor communities are open targets by the State’s security forces, emboldened and reassured by their commander-in-chief,” Palabay said.
A top ranking police official said a special task group has been formed to investigate Paez’s killing.
The leftist farmers group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas condemned the killing of Paez.
“It’s like Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya all over again when political killing of activists happened daily. The worst is yet to come and we are bracing our ranks for it,” said Antonio Flores, KMP secretary general.
“This criminal and fascist government will spare no one, not even the religious and people of the cloth. Everyone that it ‘red tagged’ as ‘legal front’ or supporters and members of the New People’s Army [NPA] are moving targets. Paez is the first Catholic priest killed under the Duterte government,” Flores said. With Vito Barcelo, Bill Casas and PNA