Benjamin De Jesus: The First Filipino Bishop to be Assassinated in the History of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (1997)Read Now
Bishop Benjamin De Jesus, the Apostolic Vicar of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, was assassinated on February 4, 1997, by attackers accused of being affiliates of Abu Sayyaf or other Muslim militant groups.
According to sources, the bishop died immediately after being shot at close range by two shooters, who hit him in the head, right cheek, shoulder, back of the neck, and stomach.
According to the witnesses, there were three assailants: a middle-aged man, a young boy, and a third man who worked as a lookout.
After shooting Bishop De Jesus, the three perpetrators fled in a black sedan that resembled a jeep which was parked near the crime scene.
The police attempted to apprehend the attackers through Jolo's Serantes Market, but the assailants escaped. In addition, the officials discovered one dead woman and numerous injured people.
The Philippine National Police have yet to name the perpetrators or a motive for murdering the bishop a day later.
Meanwhile, Oblate Archbishop Philip Smith of the province of Cotabato told reporters that the man had just finished a meeting with the mayor of Jolo prior to his murder.
They also mentioned that, prior to his assassination, Bishop De Jesus got ransom threats from anonymous senders, but none were death threats.
The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the breakaway Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) were both powerful in Sulu at the time, but the Catholic church said there was no reason to believe any party was involved in the killing.
According to a De Jesus colleague, "The Bishop was always open to and supportive of interreligious dialogue, and he had excellent relationships with Muslims at all levels in Jolo. It's unclear whether this was done to the bishop."
Bishop De Jesus was born in the Manila suburb of Malabon. He was first allocated to Notre Dame College in Jolo, Sulu, in 1976. Sixteen years later, Pope John Paul II ordained him as titular bishop of Bladia and Apostolic Vicar of Jolo in Rome, Italy.
He was buried in his residence in Jolo, Sulu.
There have been no further news on the murder of Bishop Benjamin De Jesus in more than two decades. It seems that this case will go unresolved.
Bishop De Jesus is the first Philippine bishop in CBCP history to be assassinated. Bishop Hernando Antiporda, on the other hand, was among the first to be killed in a burglary in 1975.
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