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Cardinal Tagle ramps up protest against Philippine killings

MANILA (UCAN): Church bells in the Archdiocese of Manila will toll at eight o’clock every evening to protest the continuing spate of killings in the Philippines.
Luis Cardinal Tagle, archbishop of Manila ramped up his condemnation of the killings following the shooting of Father Mark Ventura in the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao on April 29, and a broadcast journalist, Edmund Sestoso, in Dumaguete, in the province of Negros Oriental, only a day later.
“The bells beckon us to remember the dead, never to forget them and to ask God to remember them,” the archbishop said in a statement in early May. 
He said the tolling of the bells will “haunt the perpetrators of violence and killing to remember their victims, never to forget them” and is a call to everybody to commit to actions of truth, justice, love, and respect for God’s gift of human life and dignity.
Cardinal Tagle invited the faithful “to pause, remember and pray” for Father Ventura who was shot and killed after saying Mass in Cagayan province (Sunday Examiner, May 6).
“The bells beg us to transform the mourning of our people into hope and peace,” said the cardinal.
He condemned the murder of Father Ventura and expressed sadness that some people seem to no longer value life as a gift from God.
“It’s sad that a priest was killed ... and even if he’s not a priest, a person. Isn’t he a gift from God? Is it that easy nowadays to just kill and throw someone away?” he asked.
Father Ventura was the second priest to be killed in four months after Father Marcelito Paez was also shot dead in the province of Nueva Ecija in December.
Archbishop Sergio Utleg of Tuguegarao, has appealed to authorities for a speedy investigation into the killing of the 37-year-old Father Ventura.
“We make our appeal to the authorities ... to act swiftly in going after the perpetrators of this crime and to bring them to justice,” the archbishop said.
“There have been too many murders already done with impunity in our country by assassins .... May this be the last,” he added.
Environmental advocacy group, Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, described the slain priest as a “staunch oppositionist to mining projects.”
Leon Dulce, national coordinator of the group said, “Big business and their interests could well be behind his killing.”
Father Ventura was among those who opposed black sand mining in the province of Cagayan.
The priest was the 55th “environmental defender” to be killed since the president, Rodrigo Duterte, came to power according to the monitoring of Kalikasan.
Human rights group Karapatan said the killing of Father Ventura “is indicative of a heinous, evil and wicked crime that highlights the cowardice of men in masks who thrive in the context of this fascist regime.”
The group said in a statement, “We cannot help but cast a doubt about the possibility that Father Ventura might have been targeted because of his stance as an anti-mining advocate and his work in indigenous communities.” 

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