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Priest shot dead in northern Philippines

MANILA (UCAN): Father Mark Anthony Yuaga Ventura was shot dead after celebrating Mass in the northern Philippine town of Gattaran in Cagayan province on April 29, the second priest to be killed in four months.
The priest was blessing the children who had attended the Mass and talking to members of the choir when a man in motorcycle helmet approached a shot him twice.
Police said the 37-year-old Father Ventura was shot twice, sustaining gunshot wounds to the head and chest, and died at the scene. 
The assailant walked out of the gymnasium where the Mass was held, and fled on a motorcycle with an accomplice.
Minutes after the shooting, pictures uploaded on social media showed the lifeless body of the priest on the ground near the altar.
Father Ventura, known as an anti-mining advocate and for his work with tribal people in the province of Cagayan, was ordained a priest in 2011.
He was director of the San Isidro Labrador Mission Station based in the nearby village of Mabuno and used to be rector of the St. Thomas Aquinas Major Seminary in the town of Aparri.
“We condemn this evil act,” read a statement from Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, signed by Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, president of the conference.
The statement said the bishops were “totally shocked and in utter disbelief to hear about the brutal killing.”
Bishops appealed to authorities “to act swiftly in going after the perpetrators … and to bring them to justice.”
The killing of Father Ventura “set a new high to the epidemic of impunity and barbarity that has been set upon the country,” said a statement from activist group, Makabayan.
The opposition Liberal Party also condemned the killing in a statement and called on authorities to capture and prosecute the killers, and not treat the priest’s death as “just another death under investigation.”
The statement referred to the government’s treatment of an Australian missionary saying, “We hope that Father Ventura’s death is not a reflection of our nation’s character in light of the recent actions of the government against Sister Patricia Fox.” read the party’s statement.
Sister Fox, who has been working in poor communities in the Philippines for the past 27 years, was ordered to leave the country for joining in protest rallies.
The youth group, Anakbayan, blamed the president, Rodrigo Duterte, administration for the priest’s killing because of what the group described was its “fascistic, tyrannical, and mafia-style rule.”
The group said, “Its fascist campaign has rendered people from the religious sector as legitimate targets of killings, intimidation, and harassment for speaking up not only against the madman’s bloody war on drugs but also against the social and political injustices perpetrated by the regime.” 
The Philippine National Police has already ordered the creation of a special investigation task group to look into the killing.
Father Ventura was the second member of the clergy to be shot dead in four months in the Philippines. Unidentified gunmen killed 72-year-old Father Marcelito Paez in December 2017 in an ambush in the town of Jaen, Nueva Ecija province.

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