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Killing of Bukidnon priest sends 'chilling message' to those serving masses in countryside â group
This undated file photo shows Catholic priest Rene Regalado who was killed in Malaybalay, Bukidnon on January 24.
The STAR/File

Killing of Bukidnon priest sends 'chilling message' to those serving masses in countryside — group

(Philstar.com) - January 26, 2021 - 12:20pm

MANILA, Philippines — The killing of a Catholic priest in Bukidnon sends a “chilling message” to those who wish to serve the countryside and help the peasant masses, sectoral group Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP) said.

Catholic priest Rene Regalado, 42, was discovered unconscious along the road near Carmelite Monastery in Malaybalay, Bukidnon on Sunday. According to the police report, there were gunshot wounds in his head and “with mauling indication on his left eye.” A pistol caliber .45 with magazine was put at the back of his head.

SMCP noted that Regalado was known to be active in pushing for social issues affecting farmers and had advocated for organic farming. The group stressed that “there is a need to advocate for the struggle for genuine reform, attainment of better production, and stopping of militarization done by the state forces,” especially for the masses.

As an “advocate for farmers and sustainability,” Regalado’s killing “sends a chilling message to those called to the countryside to serve among the peasant masses,” said Kej Andrés, SMCP spokesperson.

“That despite this noble call not only towards everyone, not only for the religious, they are threatened, while many have been killed,” he continued.

Threats against religious groups increased in Duterte administration

SMCP noted even religious organizations have not been spared from verbal threats and attack under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The group said the killing of the Bukidnon priest also reminded them of the case of Rural Missionaries of the Philippines whose former coordinator, Sister Patricia Fox was deported in 2018 and whose organization bank accounts had been frozen due to allegations of links to insurgent groups.

RMP is a religious group that have joined indigenous peoples in opposing the construction of Kaliwa Dam.

SMCP noted that at least five clergymen had been killed since the start of the Duterte administration. Three of these murdered priests are known to have been red-tagged.

“We see that the threats and hate speech against our churches have also translated into continued red-tagging, arrests, trumped-up charges, and killings. As a portion of our youth choose to be part of the ordained, this also sends a clear, chilling message that no one is safe under the Duterte administration,” Andrés said.

He added: “These killings manifest a culture of impunity against our prophets who chose to speak up against injustices and systemic poverty in the countryside.”

Investigation showed that five gunshots were heard by a priest resident of Carmelite Monastery at around 7:30 p.m., around two hours before Regalado was found unconscious.

Police is conducting follow up investigation to determine the perpetrators of the killing.

The STAR reported that Regalado faced a rape complaint in October 2020, but he was able to post bail due to “certain technicalities that weakened the case” against him. No other update on the case was given. — Kristine Joy Patag with reports from The STAR

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