• The Martyr

Why mindanao tribal killed passionist priest remains a mystery


There is no longer any doubt about who killed 70-year-old American Passionist Father Carl Schmitz April 7.


B´laan tribesman Saguin Monday fired seven bullets into Father Schmitz, eye witnesses testified here Aug. 1-3, at court hearings on the priest´s murder.


Monday himself has admitted killing Father Schmitz in his rectory in Bolul, South Cotabato, where the priest headed a Church mission to the B´laan tribe.


But what is not so clear is why Monday, who belongs to a paramilitary unit here in Mindanao, shot the priest to death and who conspired with him.


Monday claims a bruise on his forehead had been caused by a punch thrown by Father Schmitz, but witnesses refuted Monday´s version of what transpired.


The witnesses testified that when the shots rang out, they saw Father Schmitz standing at the second floor landing of the mission house, talking softly to Monday who stood below at the foot of the stairs.


Moreover, Passionist Superior Father Harold Reusch told UCA News that he took photos of Monday in his cell the day after the killing, and no sign of a bruise appears in the photos.


Father Reusch also said that he suspects certain military officers are behind the killing.


The bruise seems to have been made by a fist with a ring on one finger.Father Schmitz wore no ring, but the military officer heading the prison does.


Father Reusch says the military took Monday out of prison April 18-19 during which time they helped him prepare statements accusing Father Schmitz, Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez of Marbel and the provincial governor of being communists.


Bishop Gutierrez was a major author of a pastoral letter on the environment — “What is Happening to Our Beautiful Land?” — which the Catholic Bishops´ Conference of the Philippines issued this past January.


Monday allegedly was made to say that he killed Father Schmitz because the priest supported the communist-led New People´s Army.


Father Schmitz had brought charges against four soldiers for abusing B´laan prisoners in their care, Father Reusch said. The case is still not settled.


Father Reusch also believes that some big businessmen and illegal loggers, with whom Father Schmitz had quarreled in the past, may be involved.


Nilo Flaviano, a well-known criminal lawyer and Monday´s defense attorney, told local officials that his fee was being paid by military officers.


Flaviano could not shake the testimony of those who witnessed the murder.

When one said he saw the killing from a distance of 13-15 meters, Flaviano told him to point out an object 13 meters away. The witness pointed outside the courtroom to a tree which, when measured, was exactly 13 meters away.


The lawyer also asserted that one witness had received so many favors from the dead priest that he could no longer be regarded as an impartial witness.


But the witness, a young man of 17, insisted, “All Father Carl did for me and my family was to offer Mass for us and care for our spiritual needs.”


An earlier explanation that Monday had killed the priest because Monday´s wife was rejected for a teaching position in the Catholic mission school has proven to be inaccurate, according to Father Reusch.


The courtroom was crowded with tribal leaders, priests and sisters, and a group of Japanese who were visiting nearby Santa Cruz Mission at Lake Sebu.


After the hearings, at a meeting held in a provincial official´s office, Father Schmitz´s nephew and niece, Religious and lay leaders of the diocese, and international media people decided on a campaign to publicize the killing.


They issued a demand for a “full, in-depth investigation into the incident to uncover the force behind Mr. Monday and the real reasons for the killing.”


Father Reusch said the murder has not been officially investigated, despite assurances from President Corazon Aquino and Defense Secretary Fidel Ramos.

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