June 14, 2018
“We cannot turn a deaf ear to the cry of the oppressed who plead for justice.” (Carmelite Constitution No.112)
The Order of Carmelites of the Province of the Blessed Titus Brandsma- Pilipinas strongly condemns the brutal and heartless killing of Fr. Richmond Nilo of the Diocese of Cabanatuan. On June 10, 2018, Fr. Nilo was preparing to say mass in the barangay chapel in Mayamot, Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija when he was gunned down, dying instantly. The climate and culture of impunity which prevails in this country has rendered many vulnerable to attack and murder, even including Church people and those who are genuinely serving the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized, and the rejected. Even more, anti-Church and anti-people rhetoric from President Rodrigo Duterte, by all appearances seems to be encouraging and even inciting perpetrators/death squads to commit these heinous killings. As Representative Carlos Zarate said, “these ruthless assassins have gone berserk, sparing no one, not even Church people.”
Fr. Nilo is the third Catholic priest to be killed since last December. On April 29, 2018, Fr. Mark Ventura of the Diocese of Tuguegarao was assassinated after saying mass; he was still in his clerical garb. On December 4, 2017 Fr. Marcelito Paez of the Diocese of San Jose—an outspoken human rights defender—was gunned down by unidentified assailants in Jaen, Nueva Ecija after helping with the release of a political prisoner. We could not help but ask ourselves, who could be next?
A culture of impunity emboldens those who commit these atrocities. This is especially disturbing given that the majority of people in this country, most especially those in government, profess to be followers of Christ. They project themselves as pious in their religious tradition. Yet, these killings continue and even increase in frequency. Priests and Church people are not spared from these vicious murders. Government authorities have a responsibility to hold the perpetrators of these dastardly acts accountable and render justice for the bereaved families and communities. We urge the Duterte administration to have no tolerance for such inhuman act and to insist that the culture of impunity be ended. The government should stand for and with the people who dedicate their lives for a just and peaceful society.
We also appeal for President Duterte to stop his caustic and divisive remarks that harass church people, human rights workers, and other persons who have dedicated their lives in realizing kaginhawahan for the least, the lost, the neglected, and the forgotten. Now is a time for sober reflection and respectful conduct. We must act decisively to overturn the prevailing disrespect for human lives and break the climate of impunity in the Philippines! Respect the right to life!
We fly unto the intercession and protection of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, She may embrace us in the moment of our fear and struggle for peace and justice. May Prophet Elijah, the fiery prophet of Carmel assist us in our struggle to end the culture of death and impunity. And may our Patron Blessed Titus Brandsma, embolden us to be a real witness in the midst of the people who seek for truth and justice.
(SGD) Prior Provincial and His Council:
Rev. Fr. Perfecto Adeva, O.Carm
Rev. Fr. Marlon A. Lacal, O.Carm
Rev. Fr. Gilbert S. Billena, O.Carm
Rev. Fr. Arnel Glodobe, O.Carm
Rev. Fr. Artemio D. Jusayan , O.Carm
Photo Credit: ABS-CBN