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Tuguegarao archbishop on Fr. Ventura’s slay: ‘May this be the last’

TUGUEGARAO CITY, Philippines- Archdiocese of Tuguegarao’s Archbishop Sergio Utleg hopes the killing of Father Mark Ventura in Gattaran, Cagayan on Sunday, April 29, may be the last in the country.

In a statement released on Monday, April 30, Utleg urged the Philippine National Police (PNP) to act swiftly in bringing the assailants to justice.

“There have been to many murders already done with impunity in our country by [riding in tandem assassins.] May this be the last,” Utleg said.

Ventura was shot dead just as he was blessing children, after he celebrated Mass in Barangay Piña Weste in Gattaran. His perpetrators, who both wore helmets, fled from the crime scene unidentified.

Utleg was seen emotional in the crime scene on Sunday, as he prayed for the eternal repose of Ventura.

The archbishop also condemned the killing “in strongest terms,” describing it a “brutal and cowardly act.”

“We lost a young priest, zealous and dedicated, one who smelled like his sheep, to  an assassin’s bullet right after he said Mass and was baptizing children,” Utleg said.

“Let us offer our prayers for him, for his bereaved family, and the lay faithful of our beloved Archdiocese,” he added.

The Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) also issued a statement of Sunday, condemning the “brutal killing” of Ventura, saying it is “an evil act.”

“We are totally shocked and in utter disbelief to hear about the brutal killing of Fr Mark Ventura, Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao…We make our appeal to the authorities to act swiftly in going after the perpetrators of this crime and to bring them to justice,” CBCP said.

Progressive group Anakbayan blamed the Duterte administration for his “fascistic, tyrannical, and mafia-style rule.”

“Anakbayan strongly condemns yet another killing of a church person under the Duterte regime. Its fascist campaign has rendered people from the religious sector as legitimate targets of killings, intimidation and harassment for speaking up not only against the madman’s bloody war on drugs but also against the social and political injustices perpetrated by the regime,” Anakbayan said.

Local officials also came out with statements denouncing the murder.

Cagayan Third District Representative Randy Ting, in a statement, also called on authorities to conduct thorough investigations to solve the killing of the 37-year old priest.

“I denounce the senseless killing of Fr. Mark Ventura. I hope you the perpetrators will be brought to justice the soonest possible time,” Ting said.

Governor Manuel Mamba said he already ordered Cagayan provincial police chief Senior Superintendent Warren Tolito to probe the killing, as he also condemned the crime. Northernforum.net

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