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Philippine police fail to nab Catholic nun’s shooter

The shooting of 75-year-old Maria Gemma Onipa three days ago was witnessed by a fellow nun in Biliran province
Philippine police inspect a crime scene where a suspected drug dealer was shot to death in 2017 in an undisclosed site. The country is ranked among the nations with high level of impunity for serious crimes like killings.

Philippine police inspect a crime scene where a suspected drug dealer was shot to death in 2017 in an undisclosed site. The country is ranked among the nations with high level of impunity for serious crimes like killings. (Photo: AFP)

Published: May 29, 2024 10:57 AM GMT
Updated: May 29, 2024 11:03 AM GMT

Police in a central Philippines town have yet to trace and nab the man who allegedly shot and seriously wounded a 75-year-old Catholic nun three days ago.

Sister Maria Gemma Onipa, a member of the Lady of Peace religious order, was shot by an unknown gunman in the village of Burabod, Kawayan town in Biliran province on May 26.

The nun survived the attack thanks to quick treatment including surgery in an undisclosed hospital, said a police official.

The nun is now ‘safe’ and recuperating well, the official said on condition of anonymity.

The official did not answer why police reported the case publicly only on May 28.

“The local police have yet to identify the suspect and the motive of the crime,” the official told UCA News.

“The police investigator has already visited the hospital to talk with the victim, but the latter is not yet available for interview as she was still at the intensive care unit, following the surgery,” he added.

The Eastern Visayas Police headquarters in Palo, Leyte province, which covers Central Philippines, confirmed that the suspect was identified as a male wearing a yellow jacket.

The motive and location of the suspect are yet to be ascertained, another police source said.

The shooting was reportedly witnessed by the victim’s 72-year-old fellow nun identified only as Sister Ina.

“The victim and witness were inside their house watching a Mass on TV when the suspect called out for the sisters outside the house. The witness checked at the main door and saw an unidentified man looking for the victim,” the source said.

When the victim nun opened the main door, the attacker immediately fired shots at her.

The Biliran Provincial Forensic Unit processed the crime scene and recovered one slug and two fired shells of a firearm of unknown caliber.

The Diocese of Naval, which covers the area where the nun was based, did not issue a statement over the shooting at the time of the filing of the report on May 29.

Shooting and killing of priests and religious personnel are not new in the Philippines.

On Jan. 24, 2021, Catholic priest Rene Bayang Regalado, 42, was shot to death by a group of gunmen along a road near the Malaybalay Carmel Monastery at Malaybalay town, in Mindanao Island of southern Philippines.

On May 28 that year, an 80-year-old former priest and peace negotiator Rustico Tan was shot dead while asleep on a hammock in his home on the remote island of Pilar, Camotes in Cebu Province of the central Philippines.

Justice for the two killings has not been delivered yet.

Despite having an alarming rate of serious crimes such as killings, the Philippines ranks high among nations where impunity is rampant, rights monitors say.

“Impunity is the exercise of power without accountability, which becomes, in its starkest form, the commission of crimes without punishment,” according to Atlas of Impunity, a comprehensive tool designed to track the abuse of power across five key societal dimensions – unaccountable governance, abuse of human rights, conflict, economic exploitation, and environmental degradation.

Atlas of Impunity’s 2023 Index ranked the Philippines 51st out of 163 countries. The Philippines earned the fourth worst score among 10 Southeast Asian nations, after Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos.

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