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
0

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.


Macron’s security aide charged over assaults caught on video

Updated 22 July 2018
0

Macron’s security aide charged over assaults caught on video

  • The incident is the most damaging scandal to hit Macron since he took office last year
  • An aide to Macron and an employee of the ruling party were caught on video assaulting May Day protesters

PARIS: A former top security aide for French President Emmanuel Macron was charged Sunday along with an employee of the ruling party after they were caught on video assaulting May Day protesters, footage that went viral on social media.
In the most damaging scandal to hit Macron since he took office last year, Alexandre Benalla and Vincent Crase were charged with “gang violence,” Paris prosecutors said.
Three high-ranking police officers, already suspended on suspicion they illegally gave Benalla video surveillance footage of the incidents to help him try to clear his name, were charged with misappropriation of the images and violating professional secrecy.
The president has yet to comment on the scandal, but his office said Benalla was punished in May with a two-week suspension from active duty.
Yet Benalla continued to appear in Macron’s security details.
The opposition accuses Macron, who came to power on pledges to restore transparency and integrity to the nation’s highest office in order to ensure a “republic of responsibility,” of covering up for Benalla.
Benalla, 26, was fired Friday after video footage emerged showing him hitting a man at least twice as riot police looked on while breaking up a May Day protest in Paris.
Benalla, who was wearing a police helmet with visor as well as a police armband, was additionally charged with impersonating a police officer, as well as complicity in the unauthorized use of surveillance footage.
Interior Minister Gerard Collomb is to appear before parliament on Monday morning, with some MPs warning they will demand his resignation if he knew about the incident but kept quiet.
After publishing the first video of the incident last Wednesday, French daily Le Monde posted a second video showing Benalla violently wrestling a young woman to the ground during the scuffles on a square near the Rue Mouffetard, a picturesque Left Bank street.
Just days after the May 1 demonstrations, which were marred this year by anarchists who clashed with police, Macron had tweeted that “everything will be done so that those responsible will be identified and held accountable for their actions.”
In a third video, published by the Mediapart investigative news site, police officers are seen kicking and punching the young man even after he has been immobilized on the sidewalk.
The man and woman seen in the videos have come forward and plan to testify, a source close to the inquiry said.
The government has been forced to suspend debate on a constitutional reform bill after a revolt by lawmakers, who have announced investigations by both the National Assembly and Senate.
“If Macron doesn’t explain himself the Benalla affair will become the Macron affair,” far-right leader Marine Le Pen posted on Twitter.
“Why the devil did he insist on protecting a second-rank employee who should have been kicked out of the Elysee months ago?” rightwing daily Le Figaro asked in an editorial Sunday.
But ruling Republic on the Move (LREM) party spokesman Gabriel Attal defended the president’s silence.
If Macron speaks now, “we’d have indignant commentators everywhere saying his comments could influence the inquiry,” Attal said.
Adding to the controversy, Le Monde reported Friday that despite his suspension Benalla was allowed this month to move into a palatial mansion along the Seine reserved for Elysee workers.
He was also being provided with a car and chauffeur, the paper said.
Investigators have searched Benalla’s home in the Paris suburb of Issy-Les-Moulineaux, where a city hall official said Benalla was supposed to have married on Saturday.
The scandal could hardly have come at a worse time for Macron, whose approval ratings fell to a record low of 39 percent last week, defying analysts’ expectations of a post-World Cup bump.
“Macron defenseless,” the Journal du Dimanche said in a front-page headline on Sunday over a picture of the president and Benalla.