MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte promised justice for slain Nueva Ecija priest Father Richmond Nilo during a phone call to Cabanatuan Bishop Sofronio Bancud, said his top aide on Monday, June 18.
"Tinawagan namin si Bishop Sofronio Bancud at pinarating ni Pangulo ang kanyang pakikiramay sa yumaong pari," said Special Assistant to the President Bong Go during a press briefing in Nueva Ecija.
(We called Bishop Sofronio Bancud and the President relayed his condolences for the slain priest.)
"In-assure naman po niya si Bishop na mabibigyang hustisya ang pagkakamatay nito," he added.
(The President gave assurances to Bishop that there will be justice for Nilo's death.)
Go said the phone call took place last Thursday, June 14, a day before Nilo was buried and 4 days after he was shot to death as he was preparing to say Mass at a village chapel.
Duterte's top aide also said the President "condemns" the recent killing of priests.
One indication of this, said Go, is that Duterte has refrained from speaking negatively about priests in his recent speeches. However, only 3 days after Nilo's murder, Duterte blasted the Catholic Church for hypocrisy and threatened to publicize information about alleged affairs of priests unless the Church stops "blabbering."
"Wala naman tayong narinig na po mula sa Pangulo sa mga nakaraang araw po," claimed Go. (We didn't hear anything from the President in recent days.)
The presidential aide also said Malacañang is in touch with Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles, the president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
"Kausap namin si CBCP president Romulo Valles at updated naman po siya sa mga resulta ng imbestigasyon," said Go. (We are talking to CBCP president Romulo Valles and he is updated with the results of the investigation.)
The police's primary suspect in Nilo's killing has been arrested. Murder charges are expected to be filed against him.
Duterte's recent insults and threats against the Catholic Church came after Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said such verbal attacks likely embolden violent acts against priests. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.