Malaybalay, Philippines, Jan 25, 2021 / 03:43 pm (CNA).- A Filipino diocese demanded justice and decried the murder of a priest who was shot and killed by an unknown perpetrator on Sunday.

The Diocese of Malaybalay issued a statement Jan. 25 expressing sorrow for the death of Father Rene Bayang Regalado, 42.

“The Diocese of Malaybalay with its Clergy, Consecrated Persons and Lay Faithful especially the Regalado Family in San Jose Parish, Sinayawan, Valencia City are deeply wounded and saddened with the news of the untimely passing to eternal life of one its clergy, Rev. Fr. Rene B. Regalado,” the statement reads.

“We express our deepest sympathy to his immediate family and supplicate to the Lord of Life that justice will be served to the perpetrators of this heinous crime without compromising the Lord’s gift of mercy. “

The priest’s body was discovered on a road near the Malaybalay Carmel Monastery in Patpat village. Another priest at the monastery called the police when he heard gunshots at around 7:30 pm Jan. 24.

Fr. Regalado was found by the police with a bruised left eye, multiple gunshot wounds to the head, and his left hand tied with a white shoelace.

Following the autopsy, the priest will be laid at the San Isidro Labrador Cathedral and then buried at Malaybalay Catholic cemetery on a date that will be decided between the family and the diocese.

“For those who want to visit him and his family at the Cathedral as soon as the wake is ready, we request that the pandemic protocols be strictly observed,” the statement reads.

According to the Rappler, PNP Bukidnon Chief Colonel Roel Lami-Ing said the potential motive behind the attack could be revenge for the priest’s activism or alleged rape.

He said Regalado was accused of rape in 2020 during his time as a parish priest in Lala, Lanao del Norte. The priest posted bail in December and Regalado returned to the monastery until his death on Sunday, he added.

The police also pointed to the priests’ activism against illegal logging operations and advocacy for farmers’ rights. Fr. Regalado endorsed organic farming initiatives and other agricultural causes through blogs.

According to the Inquirer, colleagues of Fr. Regalado said they last saw the priest when he left to pick up his bicycle helmet at another seminary fewer than five miles away. Fr. Virgilio Delfin, Malaybalay diocese official spokesperson, said the priest had been receiving death threats since December.

He said the priest actively served the community and was particularly involved with singing at the parish. He said the priest did not have any enemies in the community.

“As a priest, his work is to serve the community,” Fr. Delfin further added, according to the Inquirer. “Help us to seek justice, not only for all the priests but also for the family, who are grieving for their loss.”

Read More: CNA Asia News