(NASSA/ Caritas Philippines Statement on the Killing of Fr. Tito Paez)

“Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel”  (Justice in the World # 6)

The National Secretariat for Social Action – Justice and Peace/Caritas Philippines of the Catholic Bishops’ of the Philippines vehemently condemns the brutal killing of 72-year-old priest, Fr. Marcelito “Tito” Paez from the Diocese of San Jose, Nueva Ecija, by men riding in tandem last December 4, 2017 in Jaen, Nueva Ecija. The brutal killing is an attack to the Church and her mission for social justice and empowerment of the poor. It slowly creates social awareness among Filipinos that no one who is working for social development in the community level is safe anymore in the present socio-political situation in the country. It also reflects the deterioration of values and respect of human life, especially those who are mandated to protect the human rights.

Fr. Tito Paez, who earlier facilitated the release of political prisoners in the Provincial Jail in Cabanatuan City, was on his way home at 8 PM when he was attacked and shot by motorcycle-riding in tandem while driving his vehicle along the road in Jaen town of Nueva Ecija. He was immediately brought to a nearby hospital, but died hours later. The assailants are suspected to be state security forces or their assets.

Perhaps, Fr. Tito’s mistake, in the eyes of the persecutors, was his passion in his ministry for social justice and development of the life of the farmers, fisher folks and workers. He was very active in the social action programs of the Diocese of San Jose, particularly in the Justice and Peace Office which the primary goal is to uphold the human rights of the poor. Facilitating the release of a political detainee may be the cause of his death.

Fr. Tito is one of the many clergy and religious people who offered their lives for the cause of social justice. He heeded the challenge of Pope Francis: “The Church, guided by the Gospel of mercy and by love for mankind, hears the cry for justice and intends to respond to it with all her might. In this context we can understand Jesus’ command to his disciples: You yourselves give them something to eat, it means working to eliminate the structural causes of poverty and to promote development of the poor…” (EG #188). His engagement with the poor expressed his desire to address inequity of “enormous fortunes of some few individuals, and the utter poverty of the masses” (Rerum Novarum #1). All peoples, especially the pastors, are called to hear the cry of the poor.

For the sake of justice and rule of law, NASSA/Caritas Philippines calls upon the Duterte government to conduct a thorough investigation of the incident and arrest the perpetrators to give justice for the death of Fr. Tito. NASSA/Caritas Philippines also demands the government to stop its security forces from acts of violence on Church people who commit themselves to serve and work with the poor towards empowerment and development. Church people are only complimenting the government’s task in promoting, defending and fulfilling the human rights of the Filipinos for common good. As long as the government only serves and works for and with the “few”, conflicts of interest may fuel government to attack anyone or groups who work for social justice and common good.

NASSA/ Caritas Philippines also calls upon all peoples of faith and goodwill to stand up and unite in promoting social justice and in denouncing the latest killings and all brutal and senseless killings in the name of change. Let us not put in vain the life of Fr. Tito and all others who died for the sake of justice. Let us stop these acts of violence and denounce any attacks against human life, human dignity and human rights. Pope Francis says, “None of us can think, we are exempt from concerns for the poor and social justice.” God requires all peoples: to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before him” (Micah 6:8). Action on behalf of justice is our mission.

Executive Secretary

Archbishop of Caceres
National Director

13 December 2017