Cardinal Tagle ramps up protest against Philippine killings

Church bells in Manila to toll every evening in protest against spate of killings
Cardinal Tagle ramps up protest against Philippine killings

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila tells priests to continue the ringing of church bells every evening as a way of remembering victims of killings. (Photo by Angie de Silva)

Church bells in Manila Archdiocese will be tolling at eight o'clock every evening to protest the continuing spate of killings in the country.

A Catholic priest and a broadcast journalist have become the most recent victims of assassinations.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila ramped up his condemnation of the killings following the shooting of Catholic priest Mark Ventura in the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao.

"The bells beckon us to remember the dead, never to forget them, and to ask God to remember them," read a statement recent by the prelate this week.

He said the tolling of the bells will "haunt the perpetrators of violence and killing to remember their victims, never to forget them."

The prelate invited the faithful "to pause, remember and pray" for Father Ventura who was shot and killed after saying Mass in Cagayan province on April 29.

Cardinal Tagle said the tolling of the bells is a call to everybody to commit to actions of truth, justice, love, and respect for God's gift of human life and dignity.

"The bells beg us to transform the mourning of our people into hope and peace," said the Manila prelate.

Cardinal Tagle condemned the murder of Father Ventura as he expressed sadness that some people seem to no longer value life as a gift from God.

"It's sad that a priest was killed ... and even if he's not a priest, a person. Isn't he a gift from God? Is it that easy nowadays to just kill and throw someone away?" said the prelate.

Father Ventura was the second priest to be killed in four months after Father Marcelito Paez was also shot dead in the province of Nueva Ecija in December.

Archbishop Sergio Utleg of Tuguegarao has appealed to authorities for a speedy investigation into the killing of the 37-year-old Father Ventura.

"We make our appeal to the authorities ... to act swiftly in going after the perpetrators of this crime and to bring them to justice," said the prelate.

"There have been too many murders already done with impunity in our country by assassins .... May this be the last," Archbishop Utleg added.

A day after the shooting of Father Ventura, assassins also shot broadcast journalist Edmund Sestoso in the central Philippine city of Dumaguete.

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Environmental activist group Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment described the slain priest as a "staunch oppositionist to mining projects."

"Big business and their interests could well be behind his killing," said Leon Dulce, national coordinator of the environmental activist group.

Father Ventura was among those who opposed black sand mining in the province of Cagayan.

The priest was the 55th "environmental defender" who was killed since President Rodrigo Duterte came to power, according to the monitoring of Kalikasan.

Human rights group Karapatan said the killing of the priest "is indicative of a heinous, evil and wicked crime that highlights the cowardice of men in masks who thrive in the context of this fascist regime."

"We cannot help but cast a doubt about the possibility that Father Ventura might have been targeted because of his stance as an anti-mining advocate and his work in indigenous communities," read the group's statement.

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