Priest shot dead in Nueva Ecija

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 11) — Another priest was shot to death, this time  while preparing for a mass in Nueva Ecjia Sunday, local authorities said.

Police Officer Bernal of the Zaragoza police station said Father Nilo was about to celebrate mass at 6 p.m. when two unidentified gunmen shot him through the window of the Nuestra Señora dela Nieve Chapel in Barangay Mayamot, Zaragoza.

The gunmen escaped on a motorcycle, he added.

Director-General Oscar Albayalde, Philippine National Police chief, said the police have yet to know the motive of the killing.

Three priests dead

Nilo is the third Catholic priest killed by gunmen in the past six months, following that of Father Mark Ventura on April 29 and Father Marcelito Paez on December 4.

READ: Nueva Ecija priest dies after being gunned down by unidentified men

READ: Priest shot dead during mass in Cagayan

Asked if the killings should raise concerns on peace and order, Albayalde said they were "isolated cases" that do not reflect the overall situation of the country.

"Hindi naman araw-araw may namamatay na pari. At hindi pwedeng maging gauge 'yan na anybody would say na tayo ang least peaceful or second to the least peaceful country... These are isolated cases remember," he said in a press briefing Monday.

[Translation: Priest don't die every day and we cannot use this as a basis to gauge if anybody can say we are the least peaceful or second least peaceful country...These are isolated cases remember.]

Albayalde referred to the Philippines' tag as the least peaceful country in Southeast  Asia and  second to the least peaceful in the Asia-Pacific just below North Korea by the 2018 Global Peace Index. He said the survey was "unfair."

READ: PNP, DND reject Philippines' tag as least peaceful country in SE Asia

The PNP Chief said the Nueva Ecija killing could have been prevented had Nilo raised concerns about his safety. However, he maintained the cases should not alarm the public.

"Kung may threat sana siya at nasabi na sa atin then probably na prevent 'yang pangyayari na 'yan but hindi ito cause [for] alarm for the public. Hindi naman ito nangyayari araw-araw sa atin," he said.

[Translation: If he had any threats against him and he told us about them, then probably this would have been prevented but this is not a cause (for:) alarm for the public. This doesn't happen everyday to us.]

Albayalde said, the cases will be pursued until resolved. He said he has given directives to all regional police chiefs to coordinate with their local priests for security measures.

"I have given [directives] sa lahat ng chief of police on our mga territorial units natin to coordinate with the different priest doon sa lugar nila kung maryoon silang nalalaman na under threat...hindi lang sa mga Catholic lang to ah sa lahat ng religious sector," he said.

[Translation: I have given directives to all the chiefs ofpolice in our territorial units to coordinate with the priests in their areas should they know of any threats...not only for the Catholics but to all religious sectors.]

The Cabanatuan Diocese condemned the killing in a statement saying "No priest, and no human being for that matter, deserves to be killed with utter brutality, disrespect and impurity... To kill a priest then, for whatever motive or cause, is not only unchristian and inhuman; it is also un-Filipino."

It called for a "thorough and impartial" investigation of the case.

Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque denounced the killing and tagged it as a "top priority" case for the government to investigate.

Roque said the government will see if there is need to create a special task force for the investigation or hand it over to Communications Undersecretary Joel Egco, head of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security.

Roque added he will meet with Albayalde to look into the developments of the case.

"Konkondena na po natin 'yan na pagpatay dito sa pari na taga-Nueva Ecija  [We condemn the killing of this priest from Nueva Ecija]... Titingan natin kung kinakailangan pa ng special task force or kung ipapasok kay Usec. Egco pero [We will see if we need to create a special task for this or give the case to Usec. Edco but] as Presidential Adviser of Human Rights, we will give this top priority and I will have a special conference with General Abayalde just to follow up on the investigation of this case," Roque said.