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ICC Note: In response to the recent unresolved murders of three Catholic priests, Philippine President Duterte said he could not kill a priest. He acknowledges that there seems to be a rift between the Catholic Church and his administration, but ‘the government is not interested in [killing] priests.’ Yet he refuses to disclose initial findings of the priests’ deaths.

06/22/2018 Philippines (PhilStar) – He may be a lot of things, but President Duterte said he could not kill a priest, a woman or a child.

Speaking before 2,800 delegates of the Philippine Councilors League (PCL) during their meeting at the Iloilo Convention Center Wednesday night, Duterte acknowledged that there seems to be a rift between the Catholic Church and his administration.

“I don’t want to say the things that I’m not supposed to. There seems to be a lot of killings ng mga pari. Ang gobyerno ay hindi interesado ng pari (of priests. But the government is not interested in priests),” he said, adding in jest that he has no priestly ambitions.

Duterte continued by saying he has the preliminary findings on the killing of Fr. Richmond Nilo, who was gunned down last June 10 in Nueva Ecija while he was preparing to celebrate mass.

“I have kept it to myself,” he said, adding that to release the findings would not be good for the Catholic Church. “If you want me to show it to the Catholic Church, I would show it to everybody.”

Duterte said he could also release the findings on the murder of Fr. Mark Ventura, who was killed last April 29 in Gattaran, Cagayan.

“There’s a matrix there. You could choose your conclusion, whatever it is,” he added.

The President hinted of an undercurrent, which he claimed he doesn’t want. After all, the Catholic Church is not a political party, he added.

“I have nothing against you,” Duterte told Catholic priests.

Nilo was the third priest killed since the murder of Fr. Marcelito Paez last Dec. 5, also in Nueva Ecija.

Another Catholic priest who once served as chaplain of the Philippine National Police, Fr. Rey Urmeneta, survived an assassination attempt last June 6 in Calamba, Laguna.

But while he could not imagine killing priests, Duterte said he has no qualms about killing drug dealers.

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For interviews with Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected]