A bishop active in the campaign against illegal drugs in the north died of a severe asthma attack after holding Mass yesterday, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) announced today.
Bishop Artemio Rillera of San Fernando, 69, a missionary from the Society of the Divine Word (SVD), suffered an asthma attack inside the Seminary of the Sacred Heart in La Union province.
He was pronounced dead on arrival at Bethany Hospital, also in the city, at around 10:40 am.
An official of the CBCP said the prelates were deeply saddened to hear the death of Bishop Rillera who had been an active member of the CBCP for 18 years.
“This came as a big shock. This was totally unexpected,” said Monsignor Pedro Quitorio, CBCP media director.
Bishop Rillera was a known advocate against illegal drugs. In February, he led a street demonstration to protest a court order allowing one of the suspects in a drugs case to post a million-peso (US$23,800) bail.
In 2009, Rillera received the Saranay Award, the highest recognition given by the provincial government to a resident of La Union, for his fearless fight against illegal drugs, among other advocacies.
Bishop Rillera was born in Naguilian town. He was ordained and installed Bishop of Bangued on August 28, 1993.
He was appointed bishop of San Fernando de La Union on April 1, 2005 and installed as its fourth bishop on June 14, 2005.