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A week after a retired 72-year-old priest was murdered in the Philippines, the Catholic Church’s committee for social justice called on the government to stop its attacks on religious leaders.
A letter from the Philippine Church’s National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace (Nassa), urged the government to stop its “security forces” from attacking church leaders and workers, reported CBCP News.
“Nassa demands the government to stop its security forces from acts of violence on church people who commit themselves to serve and work with the poor towards empowerment and development,” said Nassa’s head, Archbishop Rolando Tria Tirona.
The statement came just over a week after Fr. Marcelito “Tito” Paez, a retired priest of the San Jose Diocese, was shot dead by gunmen on the Philippine island of Luzon.
Critics of the regime accuse government sources of committing the December 4 murder, which occurred hours after Paez, a member of the board of Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, facilitated the release of a political prisoner in Cabanatuan, the provincial capital, UCANews reported.
According to the report, the attack on Paez was the third killing of a religious in the last month.
On December 3, Pastor Lovelito Quinones of the King Glory Ministry in Mansalay, southwest of Manila was shot by police. The pastor had been named by police as a member of the communist New People’s Army.
On November 16, gunmen shot dead United Church of Christ of the Philippines lay pastor Perfecto Hoyle.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on December 5 signed a proclamation declaring the Communist Party of the Philippines New People’s Army a terrorist organization.
Last month, Duterte said that he would order the arrest not only of communist rebels, but of “all legal fronts” aiding the left.
“We will treat you as criminals; we will arrest you, including legal fronts. [The] legal fronts helping to topple government and sow terror,” Duterte said in a speech to troops, reported Inquirer.Net.
Elected in 2016 in a landslide win brought about by his tough-on-crime stand, Duterte’s crackdown on drug dealers has left 4,000 dead amidst criticism of his regimes extra-judicial killings from human rights activists around the world.