Palace: PNP to work closely with Catholic Church to protect priests
Malacanang vowed Wednesday to end the killings of Catholic priests as police will work closely with the Church's hierarchy on how to protect them.
In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Duterte administration joins the Catholic bishops and faithful in condemning the murder of Catholic priests, namely, Fr. Mark Ventura, Fr. Tito Paez and Fr. Richmond Nilo.
He said the government and the Philippine National Police (PNP) have mounted investigations into these crimes and have vowed to bring perpetrators to justice.
"The PNP shall also be working closely with the Church, especially the hierarchy and the clergy, on measures to protect our priests," he said.
Roque said Duterte has ordered an intensified campaign against criminality.
He claimed the government has made "significant strides" in the peace and order situation in the country, as acknowledged by various reports.
Roque accused that lawless elements were trying to hamper government's efforts against criminality up to the extent of killing the clergy men.
"In this nationwide drive, lawless elements will seek to block our efforts by sowing division and creating animosity, even exploiting crimes like the killings of priests," he said.
He urged the public to stand united against these "purveyors of crime and together advance the peace and security of the nation and the Church."
Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas has condemned in strongest terms Nilo's murder.
“They are killing our flock. They are killing us the shepherds. They are killing our faith. They are cursing our Church. They are killing God as they did in Cavalry,” he said in a statement on Monday.
The prelates also asked Duterte to stop his "verbal persecution of the Catholic Church" as this unwittingly encouraged attacks against the priests.
But Roque has said that there were no empirical data that would connect Duterte's criticisms on the Catholic Church and that of the priests' slays.
In a span of about six months, three Catholic priests have been killed. Celerina Monte/DMS