Shooting attack fails to deter Filipino priest

| June 29, 2010

A Catholic priest targeted in a post-midnight shooting attack in the Philippines on Saturday says he will not abandon his parish and will continue serving the poor.

“I will never leave my parish,” Father Jose Francisco “Jeofran” Talaban, 43, parish priest of Nuestra Señora de la Salvacion in the Aurora province village of Bianoan, Casiguran town, told Church-run Radio Veritas.

The shots missed the sleeping priest by a few meters.

Police later recovered empty shells and grenade shrapnel. Also found were anti-communist pamphlets accusing Father Talaban of belonging to the New People’s Army.

“The Church will not be cowed and will not stop helping the poor and oppressed,” Father Talaban said.

He said he suspects that the attack was related to his campaign against government projects in the Aurora Special Economic Zone.

Father Talaban is known as a vocal advocate of the rights of farmers’ and indigenous people who will be displaced by the project.

Infanta Bishop Rolando Tria Tirona condemned the attack, saying the threats will not deter the Church.

He described the perpetrators as “cowards and without conscience”.

“We are on the side of the poor, so if they think we will back out, they are wrong,” the bishop said.

Claiming to know those behind the attack, Bishop Tirona noted that the threats against Father Talaban only started when the special economic zone project was proposed.

However, Aurora Representative Juan Edgardo Angara, a proponent of the project in Congress, said it was premature to make any links.

“Definitely, the attack should be condemned,” he said. “(But) it may or may not have anything to do with the project.”

“Elements” may be out to destabilize the local situation, he added.

Bishop Tirona will meet local clergy later this week to discuss improved security measures.

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Category: Church Security

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