Atienza to PNP chief: Retract remark on priests’ slays as ‘isolated cases’

“Isolated cases? Tatlong pari? General Albayalde, bawiin mo ang sinabi mong ‘yan.”

(Isolated cases? Three priests? General Albayalde, retract that statement.)

This was how House Deputy Minority Leader and Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza lambasted on Thursday Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Dir. Gen. Oscar Albayalde’s statement that the recent attacks against three catholic priests were mere “isolated incidents.”

Lamenting that a “very serious peace and order situation” has dawned on the country in the past months as “women and catholic priests” are being targeted by criminals, Atienza pressed Albayalde to take back his remark and do his job properly.

“You have to take a very serious look into this Mr. General, pigilin mo ‘yan (stop them from happening), do everything you can otherwise you lose the validity of your leadership. Your statement, you have to retrieve that,” he said at the weekly Serye media forum in Quezon City.

The lawmaker also stressed that the recent killings of priests “seems to be a pattern.”

“Catholic priests are targeted and it seems to be a pattern. This is a disrespect for life, for people and rights of Filipinos to life and liberty,” he added.

“General, siguro mas mabuting reviewhin mo ‘yung sinumpaan mong tungkulin (it would be better if you review your oath). This is the first time these things have happened. We have a deteriorating peace condition and he has to act,” Atienza further said.

Last Sunday, Fr. Richmond Nilo was shot dead by still unidentified gunmen in the Nuestra Señora de la Nieve Chapel in Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija as he was preparing for Mass.

READ: Priest shot dead in chapel at start of Mass in Nueva Ecija

He was the third priest who had been killed in the recent months.

On April 29, 37-year-old Fr. Mark Ventura, an anti-mining activist and an indigenous peoples advocate, was also shot dead after celebrating Mass in Gattaran, Cagayan.

Last Dec. 5, 72-year-old Fr. Marcelito Paez was gunned down at Jaen town in Nueva Ecija province, hours after he facilitated the release of political prisoner Rommel Tucay in Cabanatuan City. Paez was also a known peace advocate and was pushing for the resumption of the peace talks.

READ: Ecija priest’s murder sparks solidarity against ‘tokhang’ vs activists

In a statement on Monday, the Central Luzon Police Regional Office said a special investigation task group (SITG) has been created to probe the priest’s case.

READ: Albayalde orders PNP to resolve Father Nilo murder case

Albayalde also said he has tasked local police chiefs nationwide to “coordinate” with all priests. He also insisted that the attacks on the three priests were “isolated incidents.”

READ: Albayalde: Killing of priests ‘not cause for public alarm’

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, pressed whether President Rodrigo Duterte’s criticisms of the Church could have encouraged some people to kill priests, said there was no “empirical basis” for this.

But Atienza said this may have been the case, so the President should stop criticizing the Catholic church.

“Pwedeng ganun din. Kaya nga nakikiusap tayo kay President na itigil muna natin ang murahan,” he said.

(That could be the case. That is why we are urging the President to stop the cursing.) /je

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