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PNP, NBI to probe high-profile crimes

Cecille Suerte Felipe - The Philippine Star
PNP, NBI to probe high-profile crimes
Seminarians and members of the clergy carry slogans in a penitential pilgrimage from San Jacinto Church in San Jacinto, Pangasinan to the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Manaoag yesterday during a ‘Day of Reparation’ over the murder of Fr. Richmond Nilo.
Cesar Ramirez

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) have joined forces in investigating high-profile cases that include the killing of three Catholic priests and former La Union Rep. Eufranio Eriguel.

Director General Oscar Albayalde said that Adell Roll Milan, primary suspect in the murder of Fr. Richmond Nilo, was presented to prosecutors for inquest last Friday.

Albayalde stressed that the police did not coach the witness – a young altar boy who was just meters away when the priest was shot shortly before celebrating a mass in Nueva Ecija’s Zaragoza town last June 10 – to implicate Milan.

The PNP chief added that the boy was never placed under police custody and could not have been tutored just to appease the Catholic Church and the public.

“We can assure the public that the PNP did not turn Milan into a fall guy. He was identified by the young boy who is now under the custody of priests. We never had him under our custody,” Albayalde said yesterday’s NBI flag-raising ceremony where he served as guest.

He noted though that he saw the boy once when he visited the priest’s wake last week.

Saying that the collaboration with the NBI would strengthen the government’s flagship campaign against organized crime, illegal drugs and corruption, Albayalde claimed that the Nueva Ecija provincial police office has already established an airtight case against Milan and several other suspects.

The altar boy, he added, was asked by priests about the identity of the killer and was also shown the rogue’s gallery on three different occasions.

As for Milan’s claim that he was on a drinking spree at the time of the killing, the PNP chief said “that will be his alibi,” referring to the kind of defense that the accused might present before the courts.

He gave assurance that the PNP and NBI would continue to investigate the case until the last suspect is accounted for.

Meanwhile, Nueva Caceres Archbishop Rolando Tria Tirona, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) chairman of national secretariat for social action, said that learning martial arts might be a more acceptable option for priests who are discouraged from carrying firearms.

Tirona, during yesterday’s third anniversary of Laudato Si, said he favors the idea of having priests learn martial arts for defense, especially those who are receiving death threats, as he cited the killing of Fathers Marcelino Paez in December, Mark Ventura in April and Richmond Nilo last June 10.

“You have to defend yourself, but then, of course, they would only use this as a preventive measure. Priests cannot be expected to be like Superman or Spiderman.”

The secretariat’s executive secretary, Fr. Edu Gariguez, supports the suggestion and said that the course could be integrated into the seminary curriculum.

Bearing firearms, he added, would be a contradiction to what the Church teaches since these are instruments for killing.

He stressed that dying for one’s faith should be considered an honor and an act of martyrdom.

“If a priest is afraid to defend his faith, then he is in the wrong ministry. This is the reason why priests have no families so they could totally give themselves to the ministry,” Gariguez said.

Day of Reparation

In Pangasinan’s Manaoag town, a group of priests, nuns, seminarians, lay people and other Catholic faithful braved the rain yesterday for a dawn penitential pilgrimage from San Jacinto town church to the Basilica of Manaoag, more than nine kilometers away, to attend the Day of Reparation mass.

The group let the placards speak for them as they denounced the killings in the country, including the murder of priests. Some read: “I only spoke the truth. Why kill me?” and “We are not a nation of killers.” Others said: “ We stand with the Catholic Church” and “We obey God rather than men.”

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, who presided over the 7 a.m. mass after the pilgrimage walk, said the priests wore purple “because of the blood that is splattered all over our land.”

“We, your priests, are wearing purple because we are atoning for the sins of our nation, including our sins,” he said, referring to the murders in the country, including the killing of Nilo, Ventura and Paez. – With Evelyn Macairan, Eva Visperas

EUFRANIO ERIGUEL

NATIONAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION

PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE

RICHMOND NILO

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