By Santosh Digal, BosNewsLife Southeast Asia Correspondent reporting from the Philippines
MANILA, PHILIPPINES (BosNewsLife)-- Christians in the Philippines on Saturday, January 26, mourned a Protestant pastor after police confirmed he was shot and killed, the second member of the Philippine clergy to die violently in nine days.
Felicisimo Catambis, 60, of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), was riding a motorcycle when he was shot in the coastal town of Abuyog in Leyte Province, police said.
The UCCP leader in Leyte Province, Pastor Noel Balo, said Catambis was the third member from his church to be murdered in the last three years. Police investigators said Catambis sustained nine gunshot wounds in the back. The motive for the killing was not immediately clear.
Catambis, assigned to the UCCP church in Abuyog, was on his way to the town proper when one of two motorcycle-riding men shot him in Barangay Balucawe at 7:30 a.m, local time, Lantajo said. The police recovered nine empty shells of a 9mm pistol from the scene.
"We are still conducting our investigation as to the motive of the killing ... We just hope that those who witnessed the incident would come out so they can help us solve the crime," Lantajo added.
Another member of the clergy, Roman Catholic Priest Reynaldo Roda, was killed in the southern province of Tawi-Tawi on January 15, by gunmen, believed to be members of the Abu Sayyaf, one of several militant Islamist separatist groups based in and around the southern islands of the Philippines.
The 54-year-old Roda, of the Catholic missionary order 'Oblate of Mary Immaculate' (OMI) was attacked in the island town of Tabawan while praying inside a chapel, according to colleagues.
Police have suggested the death toll among church leaders could rise. Following Roda’s murder, several other church leaders in the southern Philippines have also received unspecified “threats”, including in Western Mindanao region, said the local police chief, Jaime Caringal.
At least "three priests have reported the presence of unidentified people near their parishes,” the police official said. Despite the threats, the OMI said it would continue "serving the poor" in the area.
Some 22 church workers were among the nearly 900 victims of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took office in 2001, according to a list compiled by the human rights group Karapatan. The killings have been blamed on both rebels and government-backed security forces.
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