The 54-year-old Rey Roda of the Catholic religious order 'Oblate of Mary Immaculate' (OMI) was attacked in the island town of Tabawan in Tawi-Tawi Province while praying inside a chapel, according to colleagues.
Some 10 men "barged" in the chapel at 8:30 p.m. local time and grabbed the praying Roda, fellow OMI Priest Loreto Daquipel told local media. He struggled against his kidnappers until they reached a basketball court in front of the chapel. "Then one of the kidnappers pulled a hand gun and shot him in the head," Daquipel was quoted as saying. The priest apparently died on the spot.
Roda had reportedly been doing missionary work in the area for the last 10 years. "It's very sad news for us, the Oblates and the Catholic Church," said OMI Archbishop Orlando Quevedo in published remarks. "This is a very sad story for us missionaries who serve our people regardless of faith and culture," Daquipel added. The attack came nearly 10 years after another OMI leader, Bishop Benjamin de Jesus was shot dead in Jolo town, in February 1997, in front of the Jolo cathedral.
MORE PRIESTS ATTACKED
Several OMI priests have been subjected to physical harassment by hostile groups in the Sulu and Tawi-Tawi regions. In 2000, gunmen also tried to kidnap a priest. He resisted and was shot, but survived. Besides OMI representatives, over two dozen other priests, pastors and other Christians were killed since 2006 alone, according to the non-government Asian Human Rights Commission.
In 2007, there were at least three other priests who were reported killed by unidentified gunmen. They were identified as Basilio Bautista of the Iglesia Filipina Reform Group, who died in Surigao del Sur province, Indonesian priest Fransiskus Madhu, who was slain in Kalinga province, and Catholic priest Florante Rigonan killed in Ilocos Norte.
Among others killed are judges. In one of the latest incidents, a 60-year-old trial court judge in the eastern Philippines was killed Monday, January 14, in an attack by a suspected hired assassin, police said. Judge Roberto Navidad was attacked after buying medicine at a drugstore in Calbayog City in Samar province, 585 kilometers (363 miles) south-east of the capital Manila. Chief Superintendent Abner Cabalquinto, a provincial police director, told reporters that Navidad died almost immediately after being shot in the face.
GOVERMENT INVOLVEMENT ALLEGED
Some organizations, including the World Council of Churches (WCC), accused the Philippine government of involvement in "extra-judicial killings" and other forms of mistreatment of Christian and other workers. In a statement received late last year by BosNewsLife, the Swiss-based WCC, which claims to represent 560 million Christians in over 110 countries, said among believers murdered by government backed forces were several church activists and pastors who allegedly supported opponents of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s administration.
As an example, WCC General Secretary Samuel Kobia cited the "brutal stabbing" of Philippines Independent Church Bishop Alberto Ramento in October, 2006, on charges of "supporting a rebellion." Fellow church members said the real reason for the killing was his involvement in human rights advocacy. "It seems that the Philippine government is resorting to terrorist means in conducting its 'war on terror'," Kobia said.
However the Arroyo government has made clear it does not approve of extra judicial killings. It set up a government investigative office to look into claims of the reported murders and abductions. Government troops have fought several rebel groups fighting for a variety of causes, especially in the impoverished southern region of Mindanao. Over 120,000 people are believed to have died in the insurgency in the last three decades. (BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos contributed to the story).