Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has joined nationwide condemnation of the murder of Fr. Mark Ventura even as she maintained that the killing of the members of the religious community is unacceptable especially in a God-fearing nation.
De Lima, a known human rights defender, said the killings of known dissenters have become rampant in the country due to the reigning culture of impunity encouraged by no less than President Duterte himself.
“Appalling and shockingly familiar. That’s my first thought upon learning last Sunday about the assassination of Fr. Mark Ventura moments after he celebrated Mass and christened babies in Cagayan,” she said in her Dispatch from Crame No. 295.
“This climate of impunity has been perpetrated and perpetuated by the Duterte regime who himself has publicly and blatantly encouraged killings not only of drug suspects but whoever gets in the way of his policies,” she added.
Ventura, a parish priest who is known for his anti-mining advocacies and for helping the indigenous peoples, was shot dead by riding-in-tandem killers after celebrating the Holy Mass at a gymnasium in Gattaran town in Cagayan last April 29.
Ventura was reportedly the second priest to be gunned down in four months, following the murder of Fr. Marcelito Paez in Nueva Ecija also by unidentified motorcycle-riding gunmen, in December 2017.
The Senator from Bicol said the gun-for-hire and killing-in-tandem executions are seemingly thriving because a business is made available to them and they are not being brought to justice.
“Unfortunately, this is an atmosphere criminals can enjoy under this heartless regime,” she said.
Since Duterte assumed presidency, De Lima said three groups have become targets of extrajudicial and summary killings, namely, alleged drug offenders who were not given a day in the court, members of the media who report the truth, and advocates of human rights and social justice.
“Klarong-klaro ang tahasang pagwawalang bahala sa panawagan ng hustisya sa mga biktima ng pagpatay. Kitang-kita din ang sabwatan ni Duterte at ng ibang sangay ng gobyerno para takutin at patahimikin ang mga nagsasalita laban sa diktadurya at mga paglabag sa pamahalaan,” she said.
De Lima, a former justice secretary, urged the public to continue demanding for accountability from those responsible for the unabated spate of killings under the Duterte regime.
“We cannot remain silent while impunity reigns. Only our collective will and action can stop this monstrous culture of death,” she said.
De Lima, a staunch advocate for human dignity, was the first public official who called for a Senate investigation into the spate of extrajudicial killings under the administration’s murderous war on drugs barely two weeks after she assumed office.
Even in detention, she continues to speak up against the murderous policies of the Duterte administration that resulted in the death of thousands of suspected drug offenders as well as innocent children and students.