Church members attack idea of armed priests in the Philippines

For Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Florencio, above, who is also the apostolic administrator of the Military Ordinariate of the Philippines, priests carrying weapons “will create more chaos” instead of solving problems. (AFP)
Updated 25 June 2018
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Church members attack idea of armed priests in the Philippines

  • Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director General Oscar Albayalde last week revealed his department had received applications from more than 200 religious workers for permits to carry firearms outside their residence.
  • Priests have been the subject of violent attacks in the Philippines over the past months. The latest victim was Fr. Richmond Nilo, who was shot dead June 10 inside a chapel in Zaragoza town, Nueva Ecija as he was preparing to say mass.

MANILA: The idea of arming clergymen in the Philippines for personal safety continues to gain opposition, as more members of the Catholic church say that “guns and priests don’t go together.”

Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director General Oscar Albayalde last week revealed his department had received applications from more than 200 religious workers for permits to carry firearms outside their residence.

It came in the wake of recent attacks on clergymen that have left three priests dead in six months.

Fr. Elizeo Mercado, senior policy adviser at the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG), cited theological reasons for opposing the idea.

Mercado said that if priests carried guns, even if concealed, they could lose their credibility as peacemakers.

“The bishops could take responsibility and exercise their leadership to tell their priests, and all those under them, that priesthood and guns do not go together, or else we will lose our credibility as peacemakers and the values that we stand for,” he told Arab News.

Mercado condemned the killings, saying it showed the failure of the security forces to protect citizens. “Whether priests or non-priests, law enforcement should protect all citizens,” he said.

“There are three priests who have been victimized, but this is going on nationwide and I don’t know why it can’t be stopped. So it is really a challenge to law enforcers, particularly to the president, to put a stop (to the killings),” he said, noting that in Mindanao where martial law is currently in effect, killings continue.

Mercado said that there have been killings of priests in the past but “not that frequent and not that many.” However, now it was “too many and in a short period of time.”

While the attacks raised concerns, Mercado said that there were other ways in which priests could get security, even employing security agents. “But not them carrying firearms,” he said. Mercado, a member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), is also an advocate of peace in Mindanao.

Archbishop Romulo Valles, the head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), has also said he is strongly against the idea of priests carrying guns.

“These recent days, the news has reported a good number of Catholic priests asking for permits from the Philippine National Police that they be allowed to carry firearms. I have already stated my mind on this issue some days ago ... that I disagree with such action — that a priest would carry firearms,” he said in a statement.

“It is simply not appropriate, to say the least, for a priest to carry firearms to protect himself,” he said.

Valles said he was very aware of the dangers to clergymen, especially with the killing of three priests in recent months.

“Together with other reported killings, we are disturbed and deeply saddened by the death of these priests. We have strongly condemned these killings. But still to me, it does not warrant at all that priests carry firearms,” he said.

“That is why we give our trust and confidence to our PNP and other related peace and order personnel in the government. We pray for them and challenge them to do their very best in this very difficult and demanding task of protecting all of us, including priests,” Valles said.

Valles is archbishop of President Duterte’s home city of Davao. He strongly discourages priests under him from seeking a gun permit, and said that for clergymen in other archdioceses “this is a matter that you should discuss with your bishops and among yourselves as priests — regarding the appropriateness and witness to our people if you carry firearms.”

In a previous statement, Valles stressed that “priests are supposed to be men of peace, not violence.”

For Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Florencio, who is also the apostolic administrator of the Military Ordinariate of the Philippines, priests carrying weapons “will create more chaos” instead of solving problems.

Priests have been the subject of violent attacks in the Philippines over the past months. In December last year, Fr. Marcelito Paez, 72, was shot dead in Jaen town in Nueva Ecija after facilitating the release of a political prisoner.

In April, Fr. Mark Ventura, an anti-mining advocate, was gunned down after celebrating Mass in the province of Cagayan.

The latest victim was Fr. Richmond Nilo, who was shot dead June 10 inside a chapel in Zaragoza town, Nueva Ecija as he was preparing to say mass.

Another priest, Fr. Rey Urmeneta, a former police chaplain, was also attacked but survived, although was wounded, in a shooting in Laguna province June 6.

PNP spokesperson Senior Supt. Benigno Durana, Jr. said that there is “no deliberate efforts by any quarters inside or outside the government” to target clergymen. He said that the killings of the three priests were unrelated.


French tourist shot dead in Bangkok by off-duty Thai cop

Updated 12 December 2018
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French tourist shot dead in Bangkok by off-duty Thai cop

  • The Parisian was shot dead at a downtown apartment block after an altercation with a police sergeant major
  • Policeman followed him back to his place and shot him twice

BANGKOK, Thailand: A French tourist was gunned down early Wednesday by an off-duty Thai cop after a drunken bar fight in a seedy Bangkok district, police said.
The 41-year-old Parisian was shot dead at a downtown apartment block after an altercation with the police sergeant major who had approached the tourist’s Thai girlfriend.
“They were drunk... they started to argue and then had a fist fight but the policeman couldn’t fight back,” the Chief of Thailand’s Immigration Police Surachate Hakpan told AFP.
“The policeman followed him back to his place and shot him twice,” he said, adding the victim had been in Thailand for several months.
The officer has been arrested and “will be fired... and prosecuted on a murder charge,” Surachate added.
Police are hunting a second suspect seen on CCTV.
Gruesome pictures circulated on Thai media showed the victim lying in a pool of blood in front of a doughnut shop at his apartment block.
Bangkok is one of the world’s most visited cities, famed for its food and racy nightlife, much of it around Nana district where the murder took place.
Thailand has a grim reputation for its gun culture, with drunken arguments, business disputes and soured romances frequently resolved by violence.