Protestant pastor shot dead in southern Philippines

Ernesto Estrella had no known enemies, but had attended a few anti-govt rallies, police say
Protestant pastor shot dead in southern Philippines

Activists display a placard in Manila during a demonstration to dramatize calls for an end to the spate of killings in the country in recent months. (Photo by Jire Carreon)

A Protestant pastor in the southern Philippine province of North Cotabato has been shot dead by gunmen in the town of Antipas, police said on Aug. 2.

Authorities identified the victim as Ernesto Estrella, 51, a married pastor of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.

Antipas police chief Joven Alisasis said at least two gunmen on a motorcycle shot the victim at about nine o'clock in the morning local time.

The victim was on a motorcycle on his way back to the town from the village of Magsaysay, where he had visited relatives, when he was shot.

A police officer called Alisasis said his relatives told investigators the pastor had no known enemies.

He said Estrella was known to be affiliated with activist groups.

"We are verifying information that he had been actively attending anti-government rallies," Alisasis said.

Estrella’s killing comes in the wake of a series of killings in the central Philippine province of Negros Oriental that have claimed the lives of at least 13 people.

President Rodrigo Duterte warned that he might place the province under martial law to put an end to the killings the government alleges were carried out by communist rebels.

Several Catholic and Protestant church leaders have earlier complained of harassment by state agents for criticizing government policies, especially related to human rights.

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