Task force formed to solve killing of Cagayan priest

TUGUEGARAO CITY, Philippines – The Philippine National Police (PNP) Cagayan Valley regional unit formed a task force to investigate the brutal killing of Father Mark Ventura on Sunday, April 29.

In a statement, the Police Regional Office 2 (PRO2) said Chief Superintendent Jose Mario Espino ordered the formation of Special Investigation Task Group-Ventura to speed up the resolution of the case.

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.

The priest sustained fatal wounds in his head and chest. He was declared dead on the spot by responding police and rescue units.

The riding-in-tandem assailants, who both wore helmets, have yet to be identified.

Right after the killing, the PRO2 said Espino ordered an "intensified hot pursuit" against the suspects, instructing all police chiefs around Gattaran town to set up checkpoints along all possible escape routes of the gunmen.

"I have ordered my men to conduct [a] thorough investigation for the possible identification and apprehension of suspects the soonest possible time," Espino said.

Calls for justice

Dioceses, religious organizations, priests, friends, and supporters of Ventura in Cagayan took to social media to call for justice. (READ: CBCP condemns murder of Cagayan priest Mark Ventura)

In a Facebook post, Father Fredel Agatep, a priest in the Minor Basilica of Piat, initiated a movement by posting a black photo with the words, "I am Fr Mark Ventura."

The post came with a statement urging people to make the photo their profile picture, to take a "firm stand" against killers and terrorists.

"Any one of us can become a victim of killers and terrorists. Let us stand firm and denounce any form of destruction of human life," reads the statement.

Local officials also denounced Ventura's killing.

"I denounce the senseless killing of Fr Mark Ventura. I hope the perpetrators will be brought to justice the soonest possible time," said Cagayan 3rd District Representative Randy Ting.

Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba said he already ordered provincial police chief Senior Superintendent Warren Tolito to probe the killing, as he also condemned the crime. – Rappler.com