Rhoel Gallardo

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Fr. Rhoel Gallardo, C.M.F. (November 29, 1965 - May 3, 2000) was a young Filipino Claretian.

He was ordained a Claretian priest in 1994. He volunteered to go to Mindanao when the assigned priest there fell ill in June 1999. He served as the director of the Claret School of Tumahubong in Basilan and as a parish priest in Sumislip.

On March 20, 2000, the Abu Sayyaf group assailed the Claret School of Tumahubong and burned it. Fr. Gallardo, and 52 others, including teachers and school children, were captured and held hostage for six weeks.

In April, some of the hostages were released. When the long negotiations between the rebels and the bishop did not come to an agreement, the Philippine Army was forced to attack the former's camp in the forest to rescue the hostages. They found the body of Fr. Gallardo, who was assassinated on May 3, 2000, with several bullet wounds and other signs of torture the rebels had inflicted on him. His nails were plucked out from his hands and feet a few days before he was shot at close range. The group also killed three children and five children. They were all tortured and forced to march barefoot through the jungle paths by cover of darkness.

It was also reported that Fr. Gallardo was beaten by his captors as he led the rosary among male hostages every evening at six o'clock or whenever he would ask about the situation of other hostages who were separated from them.

A requiem Mass for Fr. Gallardo was celebrated by Jaime Cardinal Sin on May 9, 2000 at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Manila where the Claretian missionary lay in state. The latter was laid to rest in a cemetery near the Claretian Formation Center in Manila.

To commemorate the fifth anniversary of Fr. Gallardo's death in May 2005, a group of his friends began to compile testimonies and documents to support his beatification as the “first Filipino martyr and saint of the new millennium.”

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