It is a sign of “desperation and hopelessness” that men of the cloth are acquiring guns to protect themselves from possible attacks, according to Sen. Risa Hontiveros.
But while she understands the sentiments of the priests, Hontiveros said she was saddened by their move which she warned could turn the country into a “wild, wild west.”
The senator urged the authorities not to downplay the killings of three priests since December last year and to go deeper in their investigation.
“When the government cannot guarantee the public’s safety and security, and worse, is seen by many citizens as involved in many of the killings, the people will take it upon themselves to defend their lives,” she said in a text message.
“But we cannot live in a ‘wild, wild west’ society. We are supposed to be a country of democracy, not a country of killings and impunity,” she added.
The bishop in whose diocese several priests have reportedly armed themselves for self-defense said on Monday that he was against the move.
“I do not approve of priests owning a gun for whatever purposes,” said Bishop Buenaventura Famadico, head of the Diocese of San Pablo, Laguna.
Famadico, who also heads the Commission on Clergy of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said he would discuss the issue with his priests during their regular assembly on Monday.
The Inquirer on Sunday reported that some priests in Laguna were arming themselves for protection in the wake of recent attacks on their peers.
But while bishops opposed proposals to arm the priests, some of them welcomed the idea of teaching them self-defense skills like martial arts.
“You also have to defend yourself but, of course, that’s a preventive [measure]. A priest can’t be Superman or Spiderman when there’s trouble,” said Caceres Archbishop Rolando Tirona in an interview.
“Even Jesus Christ’s life was always in peril, but he was never armed. That’s how serious the situation has become. What triggered the situation?” he said.
Fr. Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of the CBCP national secretariat for social action, said arming priests would be a “huge contradiction” to their faith, because firearms are used to kill.
Sen. Bam Aquino echoed Hontiveros’ concern, but also opposed the arming of priests.
“When we have so many guns in our society, it breeds more violence,” Aquino said. “But I understand [the priests’] position.”
Hontiveros and Aquino are pressing the Senate to conduct its own investigation of the killings of priests in aid of legislation.
Father Richmond Nilo, 44, was gunned down as he prepared for a Mass on June 10 in Zaragoza town, Nueva Ecija province.
Before Nilo, Fr. Mark Ventura, 37, was shot dead after saying Mass in Gattaran, Cagayan, on April 29. Fr. Marcelito Paez, 72, was ambushed by motorcycle-riding gunmen in Jaen, Nueva Ecija, on Dec. 5 last year. —With reports from Tina G. Santos, Stephanie Florida, Mar Arguelles, Maricar Cinco, Madonna Virola and Delfin Mallari Jr.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.