A Catholic priest, who was a known defender of the faith against a local sect, was killed after he was shot in Nueva Ecija, a province 160 kilometers north of the capital, Manila. According to police authorities, Rev. Fr. Richmond Nilo, Ed.D, 43 years old, and parish priest of St. Vincent Ferrer, was gunned down by two unidentified men while he was about to start celebrating the Holy Mass on Sunday afternoon, June 10, at a rural village chapel. The killers were pretending to attend the church service.
Before his murder, Fr. Nilo was known for publicly defending the Catholic faith against the attacks of Iglesia ni Cristo (INC, translated Church of Christ), a sect founded by Filipino Felix Manalo in 1914 after separating from the Catholic Church. Although a minority religion in the Philippines with a membership estimated at over 2 million, the INC is a powerful political force given its practice of bloc-voting where an estimated one million members are forced to vote for candidates that INC leaders endorse. In 2016, the INC supported current President Rodrigo Duterte, and the latter has appointed Mr. Eduardo Manalo, head of the INC, as a special envoy. The administration has also put numerous INC members in influential government positions. The Iglesia ni Cristo is also known for the passionate rhetoric of its members, attacking all major religions in the Philippines, including Catholicism, in its religious services, gatherings, and media networks. This aggressive strategy of spreading erroneous interpretations of Catholic doctrine has led to the conversion of a significant number of Catholics in the country, including Fr. Nilo’s province of Nueva Ecija. For this reason, Fr Nilo took it upon himself to defend the Catholic faith in different public forums engaging in intellectual debates against members of the INC. He was scheduled to have a grand debate this August in Cabanatuan, the most populous city of Nueva Ecija.
According to a local church volunteer at the Diocese of Cabanatuan, Fr. Nilo has been receiving death threats ever since he embarked on his crusade to defend the Catholic Church. The police though have not yet identified the motive for the murder.
Fr. Nilo is the 4th Catholic priest shot in the country in six months. In December 2016, Fr. Marcelito Paez, a 72-year old priest, known as a human rights defender, was killed by motorcycle-riding gunmen. Just last month, Fr. Mark Ventura, 37, an anti-mining advocate, was shot by a man wearing a motorcycle helmet after saying Mass. Instead of condemning the killing, President Duterte spread rumors about Fr. Ventura having illicit affairs with different women. Duterte did not disclose his sources or provide further details regarding his accusation. The Archdiocese of Tuguegarao has denied these allegations claiming Fr. Ventura is a respected priest among the local community. On June 6, Rev. Rey Urmeneta, 64, was shot while aboard his car on their way to a church meeting. Fr. Urmeneta is currently recovering from his gunshot wounds.
This is a breaking news story. Some information reported may turn out to be inaccurate. More information is being gathered and verified. ACN Philippines will update this story as that information becomes available.
Josemaria Claro, ACN Philippines Volunteer Writer