An armed man was killed in a shootout with police outside the residence of the Archbishop of Cebu in the Philippines on Tuesday morning.
The man, who arrived on a motorbike and was wearing a facemask and helmet, entered the residence and said he was looking for Archbishop Jose Palma, who was in Manila at the time.
“The man appeared to be disturbed because he wasn’t clear on what he was saying. One of the secretaries of the archbishop noticed what seemed to be a firearm tucked in the man’s waist, prompting him to call the police,” Police Chief Superintendent Debold Sinas said, according to the Inquirer, a Philippines newspaper.
“When we arrived in the area, the man was on board his motorcycle. Our operatives tried to approach him, but he said ‘Don’t touch me’ before he fired at us,” a police officer on the scene told the Inquirer.
Palma has been an outspoken critic of the growing violence surrounding the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, who has led a war against drugs that has been marked by extra-judicial killings of drug dealers and others.
The archbishop was in Manila for the Plenary Assembly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, which issued a strong statement aimed at the regime.
The Church has been a constant target of Duterte, who has warned against the bishops’ “creeping influence” in the country. Since December, three priests have been gunned down in the country.
Father Joseph Tan, the archdiocese’s press officer, issued a statement saying that there was “no known prior threat” to Palma.
“We call for prayers that peace may be restored,” Tan said.
The Archbishop of Davao, Romulo Valles, head of the bishops’ conference, met with Duterte on Monday afternoon, and afterwards a presidential spokesperson said Duterte had agreed to a “moratorium on statements” against the Catholic Church.