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Para saan pa? Sotto sees no value in probing priest killings

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by Xave Gregorio

Senate President Tito Sotto is cold to the proposal to conduct a Senate probe on the killings of Catholic priests, as he believes it would not contribute anything new in terms of legislation.

“They can [investigate,] but I wonder what legislation can be taken up that is not already in the Revised Penal Code or anything to that effect,” Sotto said Wednesday (June 13) in an interview with Senate reporters.

Sotto said nothing would come out of the probe as police are still investigating the killings of three priests in the past six months, which prompted opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros to seek a Senate probe on.

“Anong pupuntahan, ‘yun ang sinasabi ko, mas mabuting hayaan na muna nating ma-resolve ‘yung kaso,” Sotto said.

“‘Pag na-resolve ‘yung kaso, imbis na tinatawag natin dito ‘yung mga pulis at pinageeksplika natin, ano ang ieeksplika nila? Diba? Kung na-reosolve na nila at ‘yan we have a legislation na gusto nating matalakay, then, pwede,” he said further.

The Senate President, an ardent Catholic, also sees no pattern in the killings of priests Tito Paez, Mark Ventura and Richmond Nilo.

“Baka nagkataon lang ‘yan. 100 million ang Pilipino, sila lang pari sa buong Pilipinas,” he said.

Hontiveros wants the priests killings investigated by the Senate public order and dangerous drugs committee as she suspects that President Rodrigo Duterte’s tirades against the Church could be encouraging deadly attacks on the clergy.

“Kailangan ma-establish kung may pattern ba o wala. Kung walang pattern, kailangang alamin kung sino may kagagawan nito, hulihin sila at bigyan ng hustisya ang mga namatay,” she said at Kapihan sa Senado.

However, Sotto said Hontiveros’ proposed probe is merely political.

“Pagka-ganyan political na ‘yan. Wag na ‘yun. Ilayo natin ‘yung pulitka sa importanteng legislation. Makakaabala lang tayo sa imbestigasyon eh,” he said.

Paez, an activist priest, was killed in Jaen, Nueva Ecija last December 2017 while facilitating the release of political prisoner Rommel Tucay, an organizer of a militant farmer’s group.

Four months after, Ventura, an anti-mining advocate, was gunned down by riding-in-tandem killers as he was blessing children after celebrating Mass.

Nilo is the third priest to be killed in six months. He was shot dead inside a church in Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija before Mass, which some parishioners believe to be motivated by a forthcoming debate with an Iglesia ni Cristo minister.