CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 December 2018

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No to pistol-packing priests

MANILA (UCAN): “Arming priests is not a solution to crimes against them,” said Father Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the Public Affairs Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, which has expressed strong opposition to the idea of arming priests in the wake of recent attacks on members of the clergy.
 
Father Secillano said there is no need for priests to arm themselves because, like any ordinary citizen, they are also entitled to protection from the government.
 
Calls have come from several quarters for priests to take advantage of a 2014 law allowing journalists, priests, lawyers, doctors, nurses, accountants, and engineers to carry firearms outside their homes.
 
The calls come after shooting incidents involving priests.
 
On June 6, Father Rey Urmeneta survived a gun attack by two assailants in Calamba, Laguna (more here).
 
In April, Father Mark Ventura from Gattaran town in the northern Philippines died after being shot by a lone gunman shortly after celebrating Sunday Mass (Sunday Examiner, May 6).
 
On 4 December 2017, Father Marcelito Paez was shot dead in the town of Jaen, Nueva Ecija province (Sunday Examiner, 17 December 2017).
 
On June 10, CBCPNews reported that Father Richmond Nilo was shot and killed by unidentified gunmen as he was about to celebrate Mass in the chapel of the barangay of Mayamot, Zaragoza, in Nueva Ecija  (see here).
 
Father Secillano said, “If (priests) antagonise other people, killing them is unnecessarily excessive and brutal,” adding that priests should never be considered enemies.
 
“I am for a gun-less society. We priests are not afraid of dangers. If the public, especially the poor, are exposed to dangers, we cannot be less,” said Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa.
 
Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of Cubao said a priest’s “vocation and role in the transformation of society” is different from other people.
 
“Our security is more on what we do, how we interact and live with people,” he said.
 
Meanwhile, the country’s justice secretary, Menardo Guevarra, said he intends to include funding for the purchase of firearms for prosecutors in next year’s proposed budget for his department. He said this was in response to the killing of prosecutors in recent months, especially in the provinces.
 
Guevarra made the announcement following the killing of a prosecutor during a robbery incident in Quezon City on June 4.
 
At least seven prosecutors have been killed in the past two years, according to police.
 
Prior to the 2014 law, people were required to prove they were “under actual threat” before being issued a special permit to carry firearms.
 
Now all that is needed is for them to pass a drug and psychiatric test and prove they have no pending criminal case punishable by two or more years in jail and no prior convictions. 

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