TUGUEGARAO CITY, Philippines – Investigators suspect “serious personal grudges” as a possible motive in the killing of Father Mark Ventura on Sunday, April 29.
In a press briefing on Wednesday, May 2, Philippine National Police (PNP) –Cagayan Valley regional police unit said initial findings of the Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) ruled out 3 possible motives earlier listed.
Police Chief Superintendent Jose Mario Espino, PNP-Cagayan police chief, said investigators have yet to subject Ventura’s two cellular phones into forensic examinations, adding that this would later strengthen police’s theory.
Once the phones are opened, Espino said this can lead investigators into “persons of interest.”
Espino also refused to elaborate on the personal grudges due to many speculations that “will only muddle the investigation.”
Initial investigations showed Ventura had just finished saying Mass in Barangay Piña Weste Gymnasium Sunday when a man in helmet walked near and shot him twice. He was proclaimed dead on the spot
Three days after the killing, police have narrowed down their investigation into one possible motive.
Espino said the New People’s Army (NPA) could not have been involved in the killing of Ventura, suspecting that the priest was a government spy.
“We ruled it out because the manner the gunmen, yung killing style, that doesn’t speak of an NPA,” Espino said, adding that Ventura was only “friendly” to authorities.
As for the priest's anti-mining stance, the police chief said this was also ruled out because the mining operations in the coastal areas in the province had long stopped.
Tuguegarao Archbishop Sergio Utleg, who was also present during the press conference, also said Ventura had “not been so vocal” in his anti-mining stance.
“Well, all priest, most priest are anti-mining, anti-destructive mining. Some are vocal, others are not. I think Fr. [Ventura] was one of those who was not vocal. Hindi naman siya agresibo, (He was not aggresive.) So I can say that I don’t think that will be the reason for somebody to kill him,” Utleg said.
Investigators also ruled out his involvement in the disciplinary action imposed to a student while he was serving as a school director of Lyceum of Lal-lo.
Espino said the incident would not “suffice to cause the family of the student to resort to murderous act.”
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle have come out with separate statements stongly condemning the killing of Ventura.