Father Roda home by Saturday

Instead, Father Roda’s body, expected to arrive at 4 p.m. today in Zamboanga City, will stay overnight at the Cathedral in Zamboanga City and will be flown to Cotabato City at 6 a.m. tomorrow (January 19), arriving there at 8:30 a.m.

Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, quoting Jolo Bishop Lito Lampon, told MindaNews Zamboanga Archbishop Romulo Valles will oversee the arrangements in Zamboanga City. It is expected that from the Edwin Andrews Air Base, Fr. Roda’s remains will be brought to the La Merced funeral parlor first then to the Cathedral.

Claretian priest Angel Calvo told MindaNews an 8 p.m. mass has been scheduled at the Cathedral.

Two Air Force Huey helicopters were deployed to Bongao, Tawi-tawi today Friday morning to transport the remains of Fr. Roda to his hometown in Cotabato City, Secretary Jesus Dureza, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process told MindaNews late Thursday night.

Armed men barged into the chapel in Tabawan, South Ubian town in Tawi-tawi evening of January 15 where Father Rey, who would have turned 54 on February 5,  was praying. The men killed him as he struggled and resisted being taken away. Father Rey “explicitly said that he preferred to be killed right there and then,” Father Ramon Bernabe, OMI provincial, said.

Bernabe quoted a witness as saying Father Rey was “beaten and then shot dead. The armed men also took some valuables from his office before fleeing, taking with them also a male teacher of Notre Dame of Tabawan who happened to be there.” The teacher was later identified as Omar Taup, president of Voices that Care.

Roda was director of the Notre Dame of Tabawan and head of the OMI’s mission there for the last ten years.

As news of his killing spread, more letters of condemnation and appeals for justice were issued.

Father Antonio Moreno, SJ, president of the Ateneo de Zamboanga University, issued a memo to the Ateneo community on January 17, condemning the “brutal murder” and appealing for sobriety, “even as we press authorities to conduct a speedy but thorough investigation to ferret out the truth.”

“We demand that the culprits be held accountable and face the bar of justice.  We share in the grief and sorrow of the people of Tabawan, his relatives and friends, and the Oblates.  We call upon all engaged citizens to be vigilant and pursue the path of peace,” Moreno wrote.

The Zamboanga Basilan Sulu Tawi-tawi Association of Private Schools (Zambasultaps) also condemned the killing of Fr. Roda, director of a member-school.

“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 Oblate congregation. We call upon everyone to continue to pursue the path of peace and development as the only way to address conflict and poverty,” the statement read. The statement was signed by Moreno, who also serves as president of Zambasultaps; Msgr. David Alonzo, vice president; Sister Mari. Bernadette Suico, RVM, secretary;  and Fr. Christian James DL Castro, CMF, board member.

The Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS), a network of 160 member-organizations, said the killing of Father Roda “whether by an individual, a group or an organization is a barbaric act that deserves hell and should be met with vehement condemnation.”

“Father Rey worked in Tabawan for almost ten (10) arduous years as the director of the Notre Dame of Tabawan and as the head of the mission station in the province. People remember him to be a warm-hearted priest dedicated in working for the social and spiritual upliftment of the rural folks in the area. Fr. Rey's ultimate mission in life is to liberate the world from sin,” the CBCS said.

“The death of Father Rey is another collateral damage to the decade – long conflict in Mindanao that came at a time when the Government of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace talks is hovering. We now have stronger reasons to call and appear to the GRP-MILF Peace Panel and the other ‘gatekeepers’ of the peace processes to persist in finding a just and sustainable solution to the Mindanao conflict,” the CBCS statement, signed by Sammy P. Maulana, human rights desk officer, said.

The CBCS expressed its appreciation for the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ efforts to run after Father Roda’s killers but is “cautioning the AFP to be more professional in carrying out their mission, and not to commit acts that are beyond the sheen of the law, and to avoid at all costs the perpetration of human rights violations against those who are innocent.”

Fr. Roda will be buried at the OMI cemetery in Tamontaka, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Shariff Kabunsuan, on Wednesday, January 23, after the 8 a.m. mass. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)