PHILIPPINE National Police Director General Oscar Albayalde maintained that the attacks on the three priests should be treated as isolated incidents.
I don’t think so. Once is a fluke, twice a coincidence, three times a trend. First, assassins came for Rev. Frs. Marcelito Páez and Mark Ventura, both activists. But Fr. Noli is none of the above. He’s a Catholic apologist who defends and explains the Catholic faith.
And the trend indicates Fr. Noli is not going to be the last. In fact, he was the fourth. The third survived Cabanatuan Bishop Sofronio Bancud condemned the murder of Fr. Richmond. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms and deeply mourn the brutal murder of Fr. Richmond V. Nilo, and the escalating violence and culture of impunity in the country even against helpless clergymen.”
The Catholic Church is one of the loudest voices against this spate of killings in the country.
President Duterte’s “war on drugs,” according to Human Rights Watch, launched after he took office in June 2016, has claimed an estimated 12,000 lives of primarily poor urban dwellers, including children.
In the Christian context, a martyr (literally, “witness”) is someone who is killed because of their faith. Some use the word “martyr” to mean people who are killed after being targeted purely because they are a Christian.
But they also include people who are killed, not because they are Christians, but because they take particular actions, for example, standing up against injustice, which is motivated by their faith.
That virtually includes not just priests but nuns and laypeople.
By writing this column I could be a target. So far, the targets are mostly in Luzon. But being a trend, it might just be a matter of time when a frenzy of assassination could spill over in the Visayas.
I’m a Franciscan lay missionary, a Catholic charismatic but also an environmentalist and a human rights defender. But as the killings show, that does not guarantee safety from killing. It could even be a target.