Statement of the Commission on Human Rights on the killing of Cagayan priest Fr. Mark Ventura

Statement of the Commission on Human Rights on the killing of Cagayan priest Fr. Mark Ventura

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) strongly condemns the brutal and brazen killing of priest Fr. Mark Ventura, who was gunned down in broad daylight after officiating Mass in Gattaran, Cagayan.

Reports say that Fr. Ventura was blessing children and talking to choir members when an unidentified gunman with a companion emerged in a motorcycle and shot the priest twice. He is known for his tribal rights advocacy and opposition to mining in the province.

Given the State’s duty in ensuring the protection of our right to life, we urge the government to not let this case go unresolved by acting expediently and bring the perpetrators to justice, along other cases of deaths in the country.

In December 2017, a priest in Nueva Ecija, Fr. Marcelito Paez, was also killed by motorcycle-riding gunmen hours after helping free a political prisoner. This April, Sister Patricia Fox, an Australian missionary who has done 27 years of humanitarian service for the poor and underprivileged in the country, was ordered to leave the Philippines due to alleged “political partisan activity”.

We hope that this series of attacks against church workers who are doing important humanitarian work for the vulnerable sectors is not another form of harassment against human rights defenders.

Regardless of faith, political affiliations, and ideology, we are all human beings. We must appeal to our common humanity at all times and demand that all killings and forms of violence that harm our human rights be stopped.

We must all work together and demand greater responsibility from the government in ending impunity on all fronts and ensure that justice and the rule of law prevail towards upholding the dignity of all.

And in this tough time, the Commission also offers its sympathies to the flock, family, and friends of the late Fr. Ventura, as we pray for justice for his death. ■