Palace assures probe on killing of N. Ecija priest

MANILA -- MalacaAang on Tuesday assured that authorities would investigate the killing of a 72-year-old retired Catholic priest in Nueva Ecija.

In a Palace briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Philippine National Police (PNP) would investigate the killing of Fr. Marcelino Tito Paez and proper charges would be filed against the perpetrators.

Paez was shot by motorcycle-riding gunmen on Monday night while driving along Barangay Lambakin in the town of Jaen, Nueva Ecija.

Like all killings, they will be investigated by police authorities. And if there's sufficient evidence to charge anyone, then authorities are duty-bound to file the necessary information, Roque said.

However, the Palace official cautioned human rights groups from outrightly condemning the cleric's murder as a political killing.

Prior to his killing, Paez assisted in facilitating the release of political prisoner Rommel Tucay.

The former parish priest in the town of Guimba was also known for his advocacies, and for being at the helm of human rights campaigns in Central Luzon.

Number 1, we do not know yet if this is a political killing pursuant to the definition of the Supreme Court on extralegal killings which is the killing of political activists and the killing of journalist, Roque said.

However, it will be investigated. And if authorities decide that this is an instance of a killing of an activist, then we have AO 35 that was created precisely to investigate and prosecute these cases, he said.

Administrative Order No. 35, which was signed by former President Benigno Aquino III in November 2012, created an inter-agency committee that will investigate extra-legal killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and other grave violations of the right to life, liberty, and security of persons perpetrated by state and non-state forces alike.

The inter-agency committee is headed by the Justice Secretary.

Its members include the chairperson of the Presidential Human Rights Committee and the Secretaries of the Department of the Interior and Local Government as well as the Department of National Defense, the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, the chief of the Philippine National Police and the head of the National Bureau of investigation.

So if it is determined by authorities, and it is state authorities that will determine whether or not it is a political killing, then it will be covered by AO 35, Roque said.

Source: Philippine News Agency