TAWI-TAWI, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 16, 2008) – Abu Sayyaf militants raided a convent in the remote southern Philippine island of Tawi-Tawi and killed a Catholic missionary during a kidnapping attempt, officials said on Wednesday. Fr. Rey Roda, of the congregation of Oblates of Mary Immaculate, was killed outside his convent at the compound of the Notre Dame High School, where he also served as its director, in the village of Likud Tabawan in South Ubian town late Tuesday.
Villagers tried to rescue the priest, but failed. Policemen who rushed to the school, clashed with the militants who took one teacher hostage, Omar Taub. “There was a firefight and Fr. Roda was resisting the kidnappers and he was shot and killed,” Fr. Rito Daquipil, head of the OMI mission in Tawi-Tawi province, told the Mindanao Examiner newspaper.
He said the priest’s hands were tied when they recovered the body slumped outside his convent. “We are all sad. Father Roda was a good man and loved by everybody. He was there doing missionary works with our Muslim brothers and sisters for the past ten years,” Daquipil said.
Roda was praying when the gunmen, about 10 of them armed with rifles and handguns, seized the priest and dragged him outside the chapel, Daquipil said, quoting a report from the village.
He said the body of the priest would be sent to OMI headquarters in Cotabato City.
The Philippine military launched a massive search Wednesday to capture the attackers and rescue the teacher.
It also condemned the killing of the priest. “We condemned the killing of Father Rey Roda. The Abu Sayyaf has no respect to religion and even an innocent priest is killed,” said Army Maj. Eugene Batara, a spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command.
He said troops were searching for the hostage. “General Allaga ordered troops to rescue the hostage and neutralize the terrorists,” he said, referring to the chief of the Western Mindanao Command, Lt. Gen. Nelson Allaga.
It was not the first time that the Abu Sayyaf killed a priest. In 2002, militants also kidnapped, tortured and killed a Claretian priest Roel Gallardo in Basilan province, several nautical miles south of Zamboanga City.
In 1997, the Abu Sayyaf also assassinated a Catholic bishop Benjamin de Jesus in Jolo town in Sulu province. He was shot several times outside his church in a broad daylight attack.
Three years later, the Abu Sayyaf also ambushed a Catholic missionary, Benjamin Inocencio, in Jolo town while buying gifts for poor Muslims. The Abu Sayyaf also randomly attacked and bombed Catholic churches in Tawi-Tawi, Sulu and in Mindanao the past decade.
The Abu Sayyaf, which means “Bearer of the Sword,” was originally fighting for a separate Islamic state similar to Afghanistan, but resorted to banditry and kidnappings for ransom after its Libyan firebrand founder, Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani, was killed in 1998 in a firefight with policemen in Basilan province. (With reports from Nickee Butlangan in Tawi-Tawi and Mark Navales in Mindanao)