Nueva Ecija priest dies after being gunned down by unidentified men

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Updated with quotes from Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 5) — A Catholic priest died on Monday after being shot by unidentified gunmen in Nueva Ecija.

According to a police report, Fr. Marcelino "Tito" Paez, the former parish priest in the town of Guimba, was shot by motorcycle-riding assailants while driving his vehicle on Jaen-Zaragoza Road, Brgy. Lambakin in Jaen, Nueva Ecija.

He died at the San Leonardo Hospital.

Paez, who is the current coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines in Central Luzon, earlier assisted in facilitating the release of political prisoner and peasant organizer Rommel Tucay.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Jose, Nueva Ecija slammed the killing of 72-year-old Paez, who formerly served them.

"Kami ay mariin na kinukundena ang hindi makatarungan at marahas na pagpaslang kay Fr. Tito Paez. Kami ay nananawagan sa mga kinauukulan sa pamahalaan na bigyang linaw at katarungan ang kaniyang kamatayan," the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Jose, Nueva Ecija said in a statement.

[Translation: We condemn the violent killing of Fr. Tito Paez. We call on the authorities to bring his death to justice.]

The bishop of San Jose, Nueva Ecija Roberto Mallari highlighted the involvement of Paez in issues of human rights, the poor, and farmers in Central Luzon.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Tuesday said authorities are investigating the case.

"If there's sufficient evidence to charge anyone then authorities are duty-bound to file the necessary information....If it is determined by authorities and it is state authorities that will determine whether or not it is a political killing, then it will be covered by AO 35," he said in a media briefing.

Administrative Order No. 35 in 2012 created the Inter-agency Committee on Extra-legal Killings to probe cases.