Italian priest’s brutal slay remembered with cries for justice

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Father Fausto “Pops” Tentorio. Photo courtesy of Justiceforfatherpops.com
Father Fausto “Pops” Tentorio. Photo courtesy of Justiceforfatherpops.com

KIDAPAWAN CITY (19-Oct-2012/PNA) – Priests, nuns, Church parishioners, and advocates for justice and peace in Mindanao commemorated on Wednesday the first death anniversary of the Italian missionary Fausto “Pops” Tentorio of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missionary (PIME) with a strong appeal to the Department of Justice (DOJ) to expedite the resolution of the case.

The activity, led by the Justice for Pops Movement (JPM), started with a mass at Tentorio’s burial site at the Guadalupe Formation Center inside the Bishop’s Palace in Barangay Balindog, this city, around 10 a.m.

The group, after having lunch, proceeded to the Halls of Justice in Poblacion where they held a short yet meaningful ecumenical prayer service.

PIME missionary, Peter Geremia and top officials of the JPM, submitted to the office of the Cotabato Provincial Prosecutor at the Halls of Justice their three-page appeal for the speedy resolution on Tentorio’s murder case.

The group, in a statement, has called on the DOJ, Department of Interior and Local Government, Commission on Human Rights, and the Office of the President to help give justice to Father Tentorio.

Tentorio, parish priest of the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in the mountainous town of Arakan in North Cotabato, was shot dead by a lone gunman inside the Church’s compound on October 17, 2011.

Two months later, operatives of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Cagayan de Oro City arrested the suspected triggerman identified as Jimmy Ato, a Teduray from Arakan.

Ato was placed under the custody of the NBI in General Santos City and was transferred on August 30 this year, to the Maguindanao Provincial Jail in Cotabato City for a crime he committed 15 years ago.

Ato, the NBI agents said, was arrested not because of his alleged involvement in Tentorio’s murder but due to the destructive arson with homicide his relatives in Upi, Maguindanao filed against him in 1997.

Geremia said they submitted last August at the office of the Provincial Prosecutor Jose Agerico de Guzman the affidavits executed by their witnesses.

The witnesses, based on their testimonies, identified at least 10 suspects in the killing, which included Jimmy Ato and his brother Roberto; a certain Jun Curbala or Commander Iring of the Bagani, a group of armed natives; four other Bagani members; and some military officials detailed in town at the time of the brutal slay.

“Yet, despite our efforts to identify those responsible for the killing based on the accounts of our witnesses the DoJ has not yet resolved the murder complaint we filed many months ago,” said Geremia.

Provincial Prosecutor de Guzman, in an interview, clarified that as early as September, this year, his office submitted to the DoJ’s central office the results of their in-depth investigation of the case.

“As far as our office is concerned, our job has been completed. Only that the DoJ central office has yet to approve our resolution and return it to us for proper filing in court,” said de Guzman.

The JPM, in a statement, has called on the government to protect the witnesses in the murder case, including their families, and put a stop to the harassment, threats, and intimidation against Tentorio’s supporters.

Also, it said that there is a need for credible investigation on the case so that no one would be suspected ‘unfairly.’

“We also call on the government to support the peace building efforts of the broad movement seeking justice for Father Tentorio and other victims of extra-judicial killings by providing an atmosphere or venue where victims and witnesses, alike, could feel that justice is possible so that the government may regain the confidence of the people affected by the killings,” said the statement. (PNA)

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