Roda’s remains were airlifted late Friday afternoon via a military helicopter from Bongao, Tawi-Tawi to this city, for an overnight vigil here. He was airlifted again Saturday morning to Cotabato City, his hometown.
He will be buried at the OMI cemetery in Tamontaka, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Shariff Kabunsuan on January 23, after the 8 a.m. mass.
Roda, a member of the Oblates of the Mary Immaculate, had been doing humanitarian missions in central and western Mindanao. He is the third OMI priest killed in Sulu and Tawi-tawi area after Bishop Ben De Jesus and Fr. Benjamin Inocencio.
The priest was killed last January 15 by armed men who barged into the chapel as he was praying. The priest resisted a kidnap attempt by still unidentified armed men. He had served as the director of the Notre Dame of Tabawan for a decade.
“As we grieve, shed tears and with anxieties in our hearts, let us continue Fr. Rey’s work for the poor and needy with faith, hope and trust,” Valles told the crowd of mostly diocesan and religious missionaries and nuns, friends and sympathizers who paid tribute to the murdered priest.
“He was a very good person, helpful and kind especially to the poor. He sponsored lots of scholars who are now studying in different universities in Bongao, Zamboanga and Cotabato,” said the priest’s co-worker, Oscar Pulay, Sr., principal of Notre Dame of Tabawan.
“People of Tabawan lost a father,” Pulay, who accompanied Fr. Roda’s body with four other close friends of the late priest, told MindaNews.
The Archdiocese of Zamboanga had earlier condemned the incident.
“In the strongest term, we condemn this despicable evil act. For many years, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate have courageously put their lives in the service of the Gospel among the people of Jolo,” a separate statement signed by Valles, Bishop Julius S. Tonel of Ipil and Bishop Martin Jumoad of Isabela, Basilan stated.
During the vigil some close friends of the late priest also expressed their sentiments and condemnation.
Fr. Antonio Moreno, president of the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Zamboanga University, read the statement on behalf of the Ateneo community and the Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi Association of Private Schools (ZAMBASULTAPS), of which Notre Dame of Tabawan is a member.
“We call upon our authorities to conduct a speedy but thorough investigation and hold accountable the perpetrators of his killing. We extend our deepest solidarity to the people of Tabawan, his relatives and friends, and the Oblates congregation. We call upon everyone to continue the path of peace and development as the only way to address conflict and poverty,” Moreno said.
“We turn to ourselves and our communities in Mindanao, pondering the conflicts that continue to enkindle the fires of violence that victimize all of us. On the other hand we are moved by people like Fr. Rey whose work will continue to be an inspiration to pursue the dream of peace that is still truly possible for Mindanao,” said a manifesto of Solidarity from the Zamboanga-based Interreligious Solidarity Movement for Peace.
“Let Fr. Rey be a shining example of the courage we need to help assure others of a caring place where the dignity of life is pursued as a birthright of all,” added the manifesto, read by Claretian priest Fr. Angel Calvo.
Minda Sanio of Silsilah Dialogue Movement also shared a testimony.
Fr. Raul Biyasbas, Fr. Rey’s classmate during their seminary years, said he is a living witness to the late priest’s kindness and dedication to the poor.
“He was a simple person but serious in life and had a big heart for the people of Tabawan,” Biyasbas said in his testimony.
“He would rather sacrifice himself as long as for the good and welfare of his people,” he added. (Nung Aljani/MindaNews)