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At Large

Slandering a man of God

You don’t speak ill of the dead. That is a saying common not just among Filipinos but among other peoples as well.

That was the first thing that entered my mind when I saw reports of President Duterte holding up a “matrix” linking Fr. Mark Ventura, who was shot down while saying Mass in Cagayan, to a number of women with whom the priest was allegedly having an affair.

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The motive is fairly obvious: to blacken the reputation and memory of the young priest whose shocking death — gunned down in a gym while he was saying Mass right before the eyes of shaken children — had galvanized the faithful.

Early reports had said the killing of Father Ventura might have been linked to his championing of environmental causes, most specifically his opposition to black sand mining in Cagayan. Perhaps Mr. Duterte was loathe to bolster the priest’s image as a martyr for environmental causes, implying that Father Ventura might have been killed by a jealous spouse. Or was simply eager to paint another representative of the Catholic clergy in a dark light.

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Whatever, most apropos then is the reaction of Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David that “murder is murder whatever the motive for it might have been” and that, regardless of the priest’s alleged private sins, authorities are still obligated to investigate the murder.

More recently, Archbishop Sergio Utleg of Cagayan, under whom Father Ventura served, clarified the “proper” attitude to take regarding the case. “We do not want to speculate on what the reasons are for (Father Ventura’s) death,” said the prelate. “Neither do we want that the investigation be muddled by the spreading of unfounded rumors and malicious insinuations.”

Another point is that even if the late priest was indeed involved in “extracurricular” activities, his death was still the result of a brazen killing that, like the “Tokhang” shootings related to the war on drugs, is deserving of a proper and conscientious response from law enforcers.

“We trust that the Philippine National Police is faithfully doing their job,” said Archbishop Utleg in his statement. “We wish them success, to come out with solid evidence, to apprehend the killers and determine the mastermind. We hope and pray that the real truth will come out so that justice for Father Mark will finally be served.”

Besides, the President’s “matrices” have not been exactly reliable, with previous presentations having been proven to be erroneous, such as those purportedly referring to the drug trade and links to officials.

In the case of Father Ventura’s killing, Mr. Duterte was obviously fishing for suspects to deflect speculation on the priest’s killing. “Look at the matrix,” the President told the media. “How could you not die? There’s the wife of the vice mayor, the wife of a policeman, the wife of a soldier, the wife of a big businessman. You will really die.”

Excuse me while I retch.

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The President may have been talking of himself — or his ilk. Apparently, in his mind, a man is justified in taking the life of another man whom he suspects has been having a dalliance with his wife. Even if the suspected inamorato is a man of the cloth.

And another point. Never mind the reputation and memory of Father Ventura whose time on earth has come to an untimely end. But what of the good name of these women? Surely, not all of them were having or had a relationship with the priest. Where, for one thing, could Father Ventura have found the time (not to mention the energy) for his apostolate, aside from taking on environmental criminals and land grabbers?

It’s difficult to fathom the mind of our addled President. What was so hard about telling authorities to look into Father Ventura’s killing? As far as I know, no one had tried to link Mr. Duterte, or “his” police, to the murder. So why this attempt to slander a deceased man of God? Karma, they say, is a bitch. As the saying goes: The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceeding fine.

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TAGS: At Large, Mark Ventura, Rodrigo Duterte
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