TUGUEGARAO CITY, Philippines – The family of Fr. Mark Ventura, the priest who was shot dead after saying mass in Gattaran town in Cagayan on Sunday morning, April 29, and the Police Regional Office 2 of the Philippine National Police have offered a cash reward of P300,000 for any information leading to the arrest of the suspects and the mastermind of the killing.
Ventura's family said that it was giving P200,000, while the Cagayan Valley regional police (PRO 2) added 100,000.The bounty offered was announced during a press briefing on Wednesday, May 2.
Police Chief Superintendent Jose Mario Espino of the PNP-Cagayan said the reward money can help in the speedy resolution of the case, as he urged possible witnesses to help in the investigation.
Meanwhile, the Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) has released the computerized facial composite of one of the suspects based on the account of the witnesses who saw him before the killing.
Witnesses said the suspect reportedly had a birthmark on his left cheek, and a mole below his right eye.
Police Senior Superintendent Warren Tolito, Cagayan provincial police chief and the head of the special investigation group, said they are following new developments in their probe.
Tolito said they learned that the 3 gunmen were seen in a remote village in Baggao town, asking residents for directions in going out of the area. They were wearing helmets and were riding a black Honda XRM when they fled the crime scene.
They were also seen eating pancit in a restaurant, and re-attaching their motorcycle's plate number, Tolito said.
Tolito said these reports will strengthen their case because the suspects were seen without their helmets.
Police Chief Inspector Rodel Tabulog said that area would have been the only exit route of the gunmen because there were police stations in the other roads.
Although police said they immediately deployed officers to set up checkpoints, it was not yet clear why the gunmen were not apprehended in Baggao town.
Tabulog said he will meet with the chief of police in Baggao to discuss the development.
The 37-year-old Ventura was shot dead on Sunday just as he was blessing children, after he celebrated Mass in Barangay Piña Weste in Gattaran, Cagayan, according to the task force.
The priest sustained fatal wounds in his head and chest. He was declared dead on the spot by responding police and rescue units.
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) issued a statement on the "brutal killing," condemning it as an "evil act."
Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle also denounced the murder of Ventura in a homily Sunday.
Ventura was the second priest to be gunned down in 4 months, said the CBCP News.