Church leaders in the Philippines criticized a proposal to arm priests as a protective measure in the wake of recent attacks on clergy members. 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 three recent shooting incidents involving priests.
In April, Fr Mark Ventura from Gattaran in the northern Philippines died after being shot by a lone gunman shortly after celebrating Sunday Mass and in December Fr Marcelito Paez was shot dead in Jaen, about 75 miles north of Manila. In the most recent case June 6, Fr Rey Urmeneta, 64, who serves at a parish in Calamba City about 25 miles north of Manila, survived a gun attack by two assailants. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, however, expressed strong opposition to the idea of arming priests. As reported by CNS, Fr Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the bishops’ Public Affairs Committee said, “Arming priests is not a solution to crimes against them. There is no need for priests to arm themselves because, like any ordinary citizen, they are also entitled to protection from the government. If (priests) antagonize other people, killing them is unnecessarily excessive and brutal,” said Fr Secillano, adding that priests should never be considered as enemies.” His Excellency Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon said priests get their protection from “angels, not weapons.”
Meanwhile, Secretary of Justice Menardo Guevarra said he intended to include in next year’s proposed budget for his department funding for the purchase of firearms for prosecutors. Prior to the 2014 law, people such as priests and prosecutors, like any other citizen, were required to prove they were “under actual threat” before being issued a special permit to carry firearms.