Manila, Philippines – A man looking for Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma was gunned down by police operatives in what appeared to be a shootout inside the Archbishop’s Residence compound along D. Jakosalem Street in Cebu City past 11 a.m. on Tuesday.
PO1 Shiela Mae Estrero of the Mobile Patrol Group said they received a call from employees of the Archbishop’s Residence regarding an armed man aboard a motorcycle who went inside the home of the archbishop.
“When we arrived in the area, the man was on board his motorcycle. Our operatives tried to approach him, but he said ‘Ayaw ko ninyo hilabti. (Don’t touch me)’ before he fired at us,” Estrero said in an interview.
“Left without a choice, we returned fire and hit him,” she added.
The man was identified as Jeffrey Cañedo, 41, and a resident of Barangay Labangon, Cebu City based on his driver’s license.
Cañedo was wearing a face mask and a helmet when he entered the compound of the Archbishop’s Residence at 10:40 a.m.
Asked briefly by the guards what his purpose and who he wanted to meet at the Archbishop’s Residence, the man replied “Si Bishop Palma,” before he sped off on board his motorcycle.
Cañedo talked to employees of the Archbishop’s Residence at the parking lot but was informed that the archbishop was in Manila, Chief Supt. Debold Sinas, director of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7), said.
“The man appeared to be disturbed because he wasn’t clear on what he was saying. One of the secretaries of the archbishop noticed what seemed to be a firearm tucked on the man’s waist, prompting him to call the police,” he said.
Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Dennis Villarojo is talking to police investigators at the Archbishop’s Residence.
Msgr. Joseph Tan, media liaison officer of the Archdiocese of Cebu, said Cañedo’s body was blessed by Villarojo before it was brought to the morgue.
“We’re hoping this is an isolated case,” he said.
Palma, the chief shepherd of the country’s biggest archdiocese, flew to Manila last week to attend the 117th Plenary Assembly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) from July 7 to 9, 2018.
Palma, a former president of the CBCP, has openly denounced the spate of killings in the country.
Pray for Duterte
In an interview with the Inquirer on June 26, the 68-year-old prelate urged the people to pray for President Duterte following the latter’s rant about God and the Catholic Church.
In its Pastoral Exhortation released on Monday, the CBCP has offered peace, joy, and forgiveness amid so much hatred and violence in the country.
“Our enemies in this world are not fellow human beings, not ‘flesh and blood’ (Eph 6:12). We do not fight our battles with guns and bullets. We do not seek protection from those who might wish to harm us by wearing bullet-proof vests, because the battles that we fight are spiritual,” said the statement signed by Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles, president of the CBCP.
“In these times of darkness, when there [are] so much hatred and violence, when murder has become an almost daily occurrence, when people have gotten so used to exchanging insults and hurting words in the social media, we admonish the faithful to remain steadfast in our common vocation and mission to actively work for peace,” he added.
Valles said priests being murdered for witnessing to Christ, maligned and ridiculed because they have carried out their duties as shepherds, is nothing new in the history of the Church.
“Have you forgotten that the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians? It is what has kept the Church alive after two thousand years. Did not our master say, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul [?] Rather be afraid of the one who can destroy both body and soul into Gehenna” (Mt 10:28)?” he said.
Day of prayer
On July 16, the feast of the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Valles urged the nation to spend a day of prayer and penance invoking God’s mercy and justice on “those who have blasphemed God’s Holy Name, those who slander and bear false witness, and those who commit murder or justify murder as a means for fighting criminality in our country.”
For the next three days, from July 17 to 19, 2018, he invited everyone to “fast, prayer, and give alms to the poor.”
Valles met with President Rodrigo Duterte at the Malacañang Palace around 4 p.m. on Monday. Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the President agreed to a “moratorium on statements” against the Catholic Church.
A harsh critic of the Catholic Church, President Duterte earned the ire of religious groups after he ranted about and called the God of the Catholics as “stupid.”
Facing an intense backlash over his scathing remarks against the church, President Duterte formed a committee to dialogue with the Catholic Church and other religious groups.