Militant lawmakers Representatives Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna and Ariel Casilao of Anak Pawis on Tuesday assailed the Philippine National Police for downplaying the spate of killings of priests.
National Police chief, director general Oscar Albayalde was earlier quoted as saying that the killing of priests was “isolated” and should not be a cause for concern.
“This is really inexcusable, even revolting, coming no less from the PNP chief who, in the same breath also said that there are around 1,000 rogue cops who are armed and dangerous,” Zarate said.
Nilo was about to celebrate Mass in the chapel of Brgy. Mayamot, Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija when he was shot dead around 5 pm Sunday by still unidentified assailants who fled from the scene in a getaway car.
The murder of Nilo, the Parish Priest of St. Vincent Ferrer Parish in Zaragoza and financial administrator of the Diocese of Cabanatuan, was reported to be the third killing of a priest in the country in six months, following the killing of Fr. Mark Ventura in Gattaran, Cagayan on April 29 and Fr. Marcelito Paez in Jaen, Nueva Ecija on Dec. 4 last year.
On June 6, Fr. Rey Urmeneta of the St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Calamba was wounded after being shot by unidenfied suspects.
While he said that the killings were only “isolated cases,” Albayalde said the police is still duty-bound to look into these case.
“These are isolated cases, but we will not ignore these cases as we are duty-bound to investigate these,” said Albayalde, who had ordered the regional director of Police Regional Office 3 Central Luzon to form a special team to investigate Nilo’s killing.
But Zarate said the same rogue policemen that Albayalde earlier referred could had become hired guns.
“Just imagine, even if just half of these rogue cops have become hired guns then it should really be a cause for alarm because they could have been hired to assassinate more priests, journalists, activists and critics of the administration,” he said.
Zarate said that instead of downplaying the killings, Albayalde should focus on running after the rogue cops.
“General Albayalde should stop downplaying the extent of the state of impunity in the country because many have already been killed because of it. It would be best if he go all out in finding and arresting these rogue cops and those responsible for the thousands of extrajudicial killings and other violations of human rights in our country,” he said.
Casilao, on the other hand, took to task President Rodrigo Duterte, who he said that “instead of seriously addressing the attacks against the church people and commit to serving justice, has ranted to the point of defaming the victim.”
Casilao said that President Duterte has been on a sustained verbal attack against the church, to the point of spreading hate against the practitioners of the Roman Catholic faith such as what he carried out on June 7 in Cebu City. Three days after, Nilo was killed in Nueva Ecija.
“Just days after his speech against the church, another killing was committed; the serious and alarming statements from the president against church people are very disturbing. It is in effect, license to those who committed this murders,” Casilao said.
He urged the people to dissent against the climate of extra-judicial killings.
Casilao said since Duterte became president, human rights groups have recorded 127 cases of extra-judicial killings against farmers, of the total 141 victims as of March. He said that most of the victims were peasants and indigenous people.
He added that at least 76 victims were from the Southern Mindanao Region were martial law is implemented, next was Bicol.
“We call on the people to join on raising alarm over the spate of killings in the country. We should avert the climate and rule of impunity, of tyranny and authoritarianism in the country,” Casilao said.
Another militant lawmaker, ACTS-OFW Rep. Aniceto ‘John’ Bertiz III, is calling for the resignation of Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Assistant Secretary Kristian Ablan “for peddling fake news and incompetence.”
Bertiz said that “in Wednesday’s second pre-SONA forum, Mr. Ablan maliciously if not ineptly distorted my previous remarks at the first pre-SONA forum. Mr. Ablan’s misrepresentation in the subsequent forum, which I did not attend, then gave Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello the excuse to attack me – to malign my name and character,” Bertiz said.
“The least Mr. Ablan can do is apologize for his irresponsible acts or better yet resign from his post,” Bertiz said at the Kapihan sa Serye on Thursday.
In the first pre-SONA forum, Bertiz said he merely urged the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to draw up new strategies and programs to uplift the conditions of the 7,000 Filipinos leaving the country every day for jobs abroad, especially the 250,000 domestic workers departing annually.
The overseas Filipino worker (OFW) ID card that Bello claims as his No.1 achievement “is absolutely useless and does not even exist,” Bertiz said on Thursday.
“Secretary Bello claims that the OFW ID card has great value as a substitute for the overseas employment certificate (OEC). But actually, it is just an ordinary ID card that no machine whatsoever can read. Pampakapal lang ng wallet ng OFW ‘yan,” Bertiz said.
“We challenge Secretary Bello to join us at the NAIA. Let us count together the number of departing OFWs actually carrying the useless ID card that the Secretary claims is his No. 1 achievement,” Bertiz said.
The lawmaker also lamented that “not all distressed and repatriated OFWs are getting financial assistance.”
“Kokonti lang sa kanila ang nakatatanggap actually. Hindi lahat at wala pang kalahati ang nabibigyan ng financial aid.”
The problem may be due to lack of Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) funds. But it may also be due to having the wrong priorities, or the misuse of funds, according to the lawmaker.
“This is why we are prodding the DOLE to find new and meaningful ways to help our OFWs, particularly the domestic workers, and their families here,” he said.