By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang said that the killing of Father Mark Anthony Ventura in early 2018 and the recent death threats issued to priests and bishops are not connected to President Duterte’s remarks against the Catholic Church.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made the statement after critics of the President claimed that Duterte’s tirades against the Church embolden those who wish to harm the men in cloth.
In a statement, Panelo reiterated that Ventura’s death has nothing to do with Duterte’s remarks as the killing happened in early 2018. He said making such connection is unfair.
“The detractors of PRRD have not stopped attributing the killing of at least three priests, one of whom is Father Mark Anthony Ventura, as well as the threats against Bishop David to the President. To attribute the killing of Fr. Ventura to his pronouncements is not only unfair but uncalled for, considering that the felony was committed way back in April 2018,” he said Thursday evening.
“Personal grudge was the motive behind this dastardly crime, as it was confirmed that the late priest supposedly had illicit affairs with at least eight women, based on the information gathered by the Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) formed by the Philippine National Police (PNP),” he added.
“We wish to reiterate that the Palace has nothing to do with his death, or that his murder has something to do with his duties as a man of the cloth,” we continued.
Panelo then appealed to stop connecting Ventura’s death to the death threats against Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David. He said that the administration does not condone any kind of harm inflicted on anyone.
“There is no connection between his killing with the alleged threats against Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David. Let us not put one and one together. They are altogether two different cases,” he said.
“We likewise repeat that this Administration does not – and will never – sanction any unjustified resort to violence by anyone,” he added.
David is said to have received death threats weeks after Duterte jested about drug addicts and street idlers robbing and killing priests and bishops because they are rich.
In May last year, Duterte said illicit love affairs have caused Ventura’s death. In a speech in Tabogon, Cebu, Duterte showed a matrix of the priest’s supposed love affairs with the wives of prominent people.
“Ngano di ka man mamatay? Naay gi — asawa og bise mayor, naay asawa og police, naay asawa og sundalo, naay asawa — dako nga negosyante. Eh ‘di patay ka gyud (Why do you think you won’t die when there’s one whose husband is a vice mayor, one’s a police, one’s a soldier, one’s a big time businessman. You’ll really die),” he said.
“Mangabit kang asawa pulis, mangabit kang asawa vice mayor, patay ka gyud (Have an affair with the wife of a police, have an affair with the wife of a vice mayor, you’ll really die),” he added.
Ventura was killed by unidentified gunmen while he was blessing children and talking to choir members after Sunday Mass in Gattaran, Cagayan.
Despite his rocky relationship with the Catholic Church, President Duterte had said that he respects the institution and that the government has no policy against priests.
“Wala kaming policy na galit kami sa pari o… Nothing of the sort. As a matter of fact, nirerespeto ko ‘yung simbahan (We have no policy about being angry at priests. Nothing of the sort. As a matter of fact, I respect the Church),” Duterte said.