Bishops condemn killing of priest in Cagayan town
TUGUEGARAO CITY — A young Catholic priest was gunned down on Sunday morning after saying Mass in Gattaran town, Cagayan province, police said.
Fr. Mark Anthony Ventura, 37, was talking with choir members at the Barangay Piña Weste gymnasium on the outskirts of Gattaran when two men riding tandem on a motorcycle arrived.
One of the men got off and, without removing his helmet, casually walked toward the group and shot Ventura.
The men then fled toward Baggao town, said Senior Supt. Warren Tolito, Cagayan police director.
‘Bring killers to justice’
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) condemned the killing of Ventura and appealed to the authorities to go after his killers and bring them to justice.
“We condemn this evil act. We . . . appeal to the authorities to act swiftly [and go] after the perpetrators of this crime and bring them to justice,” said Archbishop Romulo Valles, the CBCP president.
Opponent of mining
The CBCP said Ventura was known for his opposition to mining and for helping the indigenous peoples of Cagayan.
Ventura, who had been a priest for seven years, was the director of San Isidro Labrador Mission Station at Mabuno village, also in Gattaran.
Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba, Ventura’s godfather, also condemned the killing and called on the police to investigate.
“I have known Father Mac from childhood as a very kind person. He was not that confrontational, and [he] was very soft-spoken. It is hard to imagine someone would want to do this to him,” Mamba said.
Clueless on motive
He said Ventura’s family and relatives had no idea of what the killers’ motive might be.
“I am told the last statement was about the need for village candidates to sign a covenant because of the upcoming barangay elections, which he perceived would be hotly contested,” Mamba said.
Killed in his soutane
Fr. Adalbert Barut, the parish priest of Tuguegarao, said the entire Cagayan clergy was in shock.
“What hurts us most is that he was killed while still in his soutane. [The killers] did not even wait until he [could take] it off. It was like the message was that he was killed because he was a priest,” Barut said.
Ventura was the second Catholic priest to be killed in Luzon in five months.
In December last year, retired priest Marcelito Paez, 72, was shot dead by unknown assailants in Jaen town, Nueva Ecija province. His killing has remained unresolved. —Reports from Villamor Visaya Jr., Tina G. Santos and Melvin Gascon
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