By ARIEL P. AVENDAÑO
ZARAGOSA, Nueva Ecija – A priest who was about to officiate a weekend mass was brutally shot dead right at the altar of a church Sunday afternoon in Barangay Mayamot here.
Initial police report disclosed that Fr. Richmond Villaflor Nilo was gunned down by still unidentified suspect at around 5:30 p.m. inside the Nuestra Señora de Las Nieves chapel while preparing for a scheduled mass.
A village official who requested anonimity for fear of her life said that they, along with other parishioners, were having an altar preparation for the 6.00 p.m. mass when they heard a burst of gunfire.
“Bigla na lang kaming nakarinig ng mga putok tapos bigla na lang pong natumba si Fr. Richmond kaya nagsidapa na kaming lahat dahil sa sobrang takot,” said the witness.
Fr. Nilo sustained multiple gunshot wounds in different parts of the body from a caliber .45 pistol based on the empty shells recovered from the crime scene.
Chief Superintendent Amador Corpuz Central Luzon Police Regional Office director, who personally conducted an ocular inspection of the crime scene said they are looking for at least three possible motives of the killing but refused to elaborate pending the review of the closed circuit television (CCTV) camera footages.
Police theorized that the priest was shot at close range outside the steel gtill of the chapel based on the empty shells which were all recovered inside the chapel just less than 3 meters away ftom the altar table where Fr. Nilo was gunned down.
Meantime, Malacañang is considering forming a task force to address the killings of members of the clergy as it condemned the death of Fr. Nilo.
In his Monday press briefing, Roque assured the public that the investigation will be given top priority as he claimed that killing priests breaches the right to practice religion.
“Kinukondena po natin yang pagpatay dito sa pari na tiga-Nueva Ecija. Talaga pong bibigyan natin ng prayoridad ang pag-iimbestiga sa pagkapatay kay Father,” said Roque.
Fr. Nilo was the third priest who was brutally gunned down the last six months. (With a report from Argyll Cyrus Geducos)
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