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December 8, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – The Adrian Dominican Sisters join in calling for justice, an end to impunity, and prayer for the people of the Philippines, as we mourn the loss of Father Marcelito (“Tito”) Paez, 73, the country’s first Catholic priest to fall victim to the rash of extrajudicial killings that have taken place during President Duterte’s term in office.
A retired diocesan priest from the Province of Nueva Ecija and a long-time friend of our Sisters in the Our Lady of Remedies Chapter of the Congregation, Father Tito was gunned down by motorcycle-riding assassins on the evening of December 4. Earlier in the day, Father Tito had assisted in providing bail to release a political prisoner.
Sister Zenaida Nacpil, Chapter Prioress of Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter, remembers Father Tito as “a consistent defender of the poor who died helping a voiceless poor political prisoner. He died a martyr for justice and peace!”
In a statement issued by the National Clergy Discernment Group, Father Wilfredo Dulay, MDJ, wrote:
[Father Tito] was killed by assassins riding motorcycles in tandem, a manner of murder now so commonplace in the Philippines it is now considered routine alongside illegal arrests, extra judicial killings and forced disappearances. What is happening to our country? Has it become the location of the new killing fields of Asia? Violent death has become a daily occurrence in many of our poor urban neighborhoods—random, arbitrary, brutal as in cruel and inhuman. It is doubly scary because the unnamed but usual suspects are law enforcers whose declared profession and vocation in life is to protect the lives of the people of this country.
Monsignor Manuel Gabriel, convener of the National Clergy Discernment Group, made the following comment about the murder of Father Tito:
"Today, I grieve for a friend who has given his life so that his people may have life in abundance. In this year of the clergy and those in consecrated life, I grieve for a brother priest who was brutally slain because he took the road less traveled, the pastoral care of political detainees. I am in pain for the Diocese of San Jose de Nueva Ecija for losing a pastor who has dedicated 45 years of his life in the service of the poor and the victims of injustice.
“Our country lost Father Marcelino "Tito" Paez to the culture of violence and death plaguing our country. I have known Father Tito Paez since our seminary days. I have worked with him in the National Clergy Discernment. I feel certain that, given this tragedy, Father Tito challenges me and fellow priests to transform our griefs and pains to actions on behalf of justice. We need to strongly embrace our prophetic task to proclaim the reign of God and condemn the reign of terror. Father Tito Paez must not end up as a statistical number or [be] seen as a collateral damage in our society. His martyrdom has to enliven our prophetic ministry to our people."
Sister Zenaida notes that “there are many mobilizations against militarization tactics.” Among them are those initiated by the Lumad, indigenous people of Mindanao in southern Philippines, who have been picketing in front of the Department of Education because their schools are being used as military camps. Sister Zenaida invited a group of Lumad high school students to share their stories and songs of protest with other students at one of the schools our Sisters run.
As we enter this Advent season of hopeful waiting, we join our prayers with and for our brothers and sisters in the Philippines that God’s justice and peace will prevail. We pray for the repose of the soul of our brother in Christ, Fr. Tito, who “considered our convent as his second home, a place to rest and re-charge in quiet prayer,” Sister Zenaida shared in remembrance.
A Mass in Father Tito’s memory will be celebrated at St. Catherine Chapel on the campus of the Adrian Dominican Sisters at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, December 21, 2017.
A group of Lumad high school students share their stories and songs of protest with students at Holy Rosary College at the invitation of Adrian Dominican Sisters Zenaida Nacpil, OP, and Myra Dalisay, OP (center, second row), Principal of the school, located in Tala, north of Manila.