Parish priest blames Kalilangan church blast on land conflict

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/30 August) – Sunday’s grenade attack on the San Vicente Ferrer church in Kalilangan, Bukidnon during a morning mass was related to a land conflict, the Bishop of Malaybalay, quoting parish priest Fr. Art Paraiso, said.

At the same time, Bishop Jose Araneta Cabantan said that Paraiso, who is involved in the land conflict as an advocate of agrarian reform declared he does not believe the attack was the handiwork of “irate Maranao Muslims”.

Kalilangan borders Wao, a town in the predominantly Maranao province of Lanao del Sur which is part of the Diocese of Malaybalay.

“His [Paraiso’s] suspicion is that this [attack] is related to a land issue in which he himself is with the farmers for the full implementation of CARP (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program),” Cabantan said.

Paraiso is said to be very active on the issue of the comprehensive agrarian reform program extension with reform (CARPER). He is fully supporting farmers who are urging the government to fully implement the law in their favor.

At least two persons were hurt in the grenade attack, the first to happen against a church in Bukidnon.

Paraiso, ordained priest on Oct. 20, 2009, said he believes he was the target of the attack.

The Police Regional Office 10 (PRO 10) has ordered all field unit commanders and to conduct extensive region-wide hunt for the culprits of the grenade attack.

Chief Supt. Conrado E. Laza, regional police director also ordered a thorough investigation to determine the motive of the incident.

“Our intelligence men are already on the ground assisting our police investigating team in Bukidnon Provincial Police Office (PPO) and Kalilangan Municipal Police Station,” said Laza.

Meanwhile, Fr. Jonathan Tianero, director of the church-run radio station dxDB said that priests in the Diocese of Malaybalay have refused to be cowed by the incident.

“Kami nga mga pari (we the priests), whenever we die in the service of the Lord, we become martyrs, It cleanses all our sins, like a pregnant woman who dies for her child,” said Tianero.

He added that whoever threw the hand grenades “didn’t realize that he was giving the priest celebrating the mass a favor – to become a martyr.”

He said the mere fact that the bomb did not cause serious damage to life and property proved that “you cannot make evil before the Lord. Walay molabaw sa power sa Lord” (No power is greater than the Lord’s), the priest said.

Although the attack on the Kalilangan church was the first direct assault on a place of worship in Bukidnon, two priests have been killed in the province.

In 1983, Jesuit priest Fr. Jose Alingal was shot dead in his convent in Kibawe town by unidentified assailants. He was a vocal critic of military abuses during the martial law era.

On October 14, 1991, Fr. Nerilito Satur was killed for his advocacy against logging in Valencia. He was ambushed in Barangay Guinoyoran by suspected militiamen who were said to be involved in timber smuggling.

The suspects were never arrested.

The provincial government has declared October 14 as Fr. Nerilito Satur Day in honor of the slain environmentalist priest. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin/MindaNews)