Press Release
June 15, 2018


"Once is an unfortunate random event. Twice could be a coincidence. Thrice is a pattern."

This is how Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros described the spate of killings of Catholic priests under the Duterte administration. Hontiveros issued the statement after Senate President Vicente Sotto III rejected calls for the Senate to conduct a probe on the matter, saying the police should do the investigation and the killings "could just be a coincidence."

Hontiveros, who recently filed a resolution calling on the Senate to investigate the killings, said that the Senate can intervene as there is a possible policy question involved, particularly the constitutionally guaranteed right to religious freedom.

"With all due respect to the Senate President, but I think the killings are continuing and too similar to be dismissed as mere coincidence. There is clearly a pattern. First, the killings come on the heels of President Duterte's continued verbal attacks on the Catholic Church. Second, the three killed priests were vocal critics of state abuses. Third, they were killed in just the span of six months, with the two murdered while conducting religious services," Hontiveros said.

The opposition Senator said that the murders, particularly those that took place inside places of worship could possibly effect a chilling effect on the exercise of religion. "Kung magpapatuloy ang pagpatay ng mga pari sa loob mismo ng kanilang mga simbahan, baka wala nang magsimba buhat ng takot," Hontiveros said.

"This is what makes a Senate inquiry different from purely law enforcement work. When there is a pattern of killing among specific groups of people, you have to look at whether there are gaps in our existing laws. On this matter, the constitutional right to the free exercise of religion is threatened. As such, these policy questions can be addressed by a legislative inquiry in aid of legislation," Hontiveros added.

Hontiveros appealed to Sotto to reconsider his position.

"I call on Senate President Sotto to reconsider his take on this matter. The Catholic church and the millions of Catholic faithful demand that we take action. This early, I would like to thank Senator Panfilo Lacson, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Public Order for agreeing to hear this grave issue. I hope that my fellow Senators will follow suit and support the proposed inquiry," Hontiveros said.

On Wednesday, Hontiveros filed Proposed Senate Resolution No. 764 directing the Senate Committee on Public Order to look into the killings of Fr. Richmond Nilo, Fr. Mark Ventura and Fr. Marcelito "Tito" Paez. The resolution also seeks to investigate the violent attack against Fr. Rey Urmeneta of Calamba, Laguna.

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