CHR probe on Fr. Pops’ murder leads to ‘missing link’

By
May 28 2013
Father Peter Geremia and Atty. Carlos Zarate discuss after Dominar Damlayon recants his previous affidavit.  (davaotoday.com photo by Ace R. Morandante)

Father Peter Geremia and Atty. Carlos Zarate discuss after Dominar Damlayon recants his previous affidavit. (davaotoday.com photo by Ace R. Morandante)

Human rights lawyer Carlos Zarate, the legal counsel of Tentorio’s case, said “Loloy” is the missing link and has urged the CHR to find him.

By ACE R. MORANDANTE
Davao Today

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – If there is one thing that’s glaring with the recent public inquiry on the case of murdered Italian missionary Fausto ‘Father Pops’ Tentorio, it would be that the multi-agency body created by the Department of Justice to investigate the case has “failed.”

This was according to Father Peter Geremia, of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions and parish priest of Arakan in Cotabato.

It has been almost two years since Tentorio was brutally killed inside the compound of his parish in Arakan town on October 17, 2011.  Yet, the the Task Force Tentorio, which is composed of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine National Police, among others, has not yet come up with any s0lid conclusion.

“The opposite is happening instead.  It’s leading to a cover up.  I don’t think this case will be resolved,” Geremia, a long-time colleague of Tentorio, said in exasperation.

Father Peter Geremia says the Task Force Tentorio has failed.  (davaotoday.com photo by Ace R. Morandante)

Father Peter Geremia says the Task Force Tentorio has failed. (davaotoday.com photo by Ace R. Morandante)

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) led by Secretary Etta Rosales held the inquiry here from May 22 to 24.  While Geremia didn’t pin his hope on the inquiry, he said he was grateful that the inquiry brought “more information” out in the open.

Who is Loloy?

For one, Geremia and members of the Justice for Father Pops Movement were surprised when one of the witnesses presented by the NBI recanted his previous affidavit which charged brothers Jimmy and Robert Ato as the perpetrators.

Wala akoy kasayuran sa maong pagpatay ug dili tinuod nga naa ko sa simbahan (atong tungora),” Dominador Damlayon told the CHR panel on the first day of the inquiry.  It was also his first public appearance.

Damlayon explained how he was able to sign the affidavit, which he said he didn’t understand in the first place because it was written in English.

He narrated that a relative, Roberto Mabilao, went to his house in Arakan town last February and asked him to go with him to Marilog, a village in Davao City.  They were supposed to meet somebody.

Both of them traveled aboard a motorcycle rented by Mabilao.  When they arrived in Marilog late afternoon, they met a man named “Loloy” who invited them to dinner.

After which, Damlayon said, “Loloy” brought them to Cagayan de Oro City (CDO).  For whatever reason, Damlayon said, he had no idea.

When they reached CDO, they were brought to the NBI office.  Damlayon said “Loloy” taught him how to answer to the inquiry on Tentorio’s killers.  He was taken a few hours later to one of the rooms in the said office and was made to sign an affidavit.

Damlayon said he signed the affidavit, fearing that he could no longer return to Arakan.

“Loloy” allegedly gave him PHP 500 afterwards and another PHP 300 for his fare back to Arakan town from Marilog.

But the NBI denied Damlayon’s statement.  The agency said they never forced Damlayon to sign the affidavit.  He was a credible witness to the killing of Tentorio, they added, and that his recantation has even puzzled them.

The same name was dropped by one of the primary suspects during the third day of the public inquiry.

Jimmy Ato, the alleged gunman.  (davaotoday.com photo by Ace R. Morandante)

Jimmy Ato, the alleged gunman. (davaotoday.com photo by Ace R. Morandante)

Jimmy Ato, who appeared before the CHR panel, said “Loloy” and his men arrived at 5 AM of December 29, 2011 in Sitio Mahikhiwak, Kulaman village, Arakan town — more than a month after Tentorio was killed — and had him arrested and brought to the NBI office in CDO.

A day before his arrest, he said, “Loloy’s” men were seen in their area, preparing to cook their meal.  Ato said he even offered the group to cook in his house, instead.

“Loloy” allegedly said they are into gold mining operations.  Jimmy Ato said he was offered PHP 5,000 per month to guard the group’s heavy equipment such as backhoe and bulldozer.  The man, before leaving the place, had even promised to come back with engineers in tow.

Human rights lawyer Carlos Zarate, the legal counsel of Tentorio’s case, said “Loloy” is the missing link and has urged the CHR to find him.

Roberto Ato, younger brother of Jimmy, as well as Jose Sultan Sampulna and Dima Maligudan Sampulna were also tagged as suspects in the killing of Tentorio.  A “prime” witness of the case also named Jan Corbala or Kumander Iring of the armed fanatic group Bagani as responsible.

In March 2012, the New People’s Army released an “indictment” which charged individuals and government institutions for the crime against the Italian priest.

Geremia hoped that the CHR panel could finally make a conclusion on the case and make recommendations, possibly, for re-investigation.

Meanwhile, Pastor Jurie Jaime, spokesperson of rights group Karapatan-Southern Mindanao urged the Aquino government to prosecute those who are responsible in the killing of Tentorio.  (Ace R. Morandante/davaotoday.com)

The Justice for Father Pops movement offer candles as they remember their well-loved priest.  (davaotoday.com photo by Ace R. Morandante)

The Justice for Father Pops movement offer candles as they remember their well-loved priest. (davaotoday.com photo by Ace R. Morandante)

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