ARAKAN VALLEY, North Cotabato — The colleague of slain Italian missionary Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio said they are giving the Department of Justice the “last chance” to investigate and file murder charges against the perpetrators.

Fr. Peter Geremia said the DOJ investigation had been sluggish and they doubt its credibility.

“This is the last chance or else we will pursue justice by public opinion and other forms,” said Geremia in an interview at the sidelines of the third year commemoration of Tentorio’s killing last October 17.

Geremia also said that the witnesses have been “wary of their security and some have already problems with family members.”

Their latest witness has knowledge on the identity of politicians who allegedly masterminded the killing.

Read Davao Today’s story on the killing of Fr. “Pops” here: Musings in the first hours following Fr. Pops murder

Three years after Tentorio’s killing there is still no case filed against the perpetrators as the prosecution still lacks witnesses, said Atty. Gregorio Andolana, the private lawyer of groups pursuing the murder case.

Andola said that they had a meeting with Justice Secretary Leila De Lima and Italian Ambassador Luca Fornari.

Andolana said that they are also contemplating to file an attempted murder case based on the testimonies of witnesses on the foiled attempt to kill Tentorio last Oct 10, 2011 by the paramilitary group Bagani Special Force.

Read Davao Today’s story on the second anniversary of Fr. Tentorio’s murder here: No prosecution two years after Fr. Pops’ murder

“On the murder case, we still lack witnesses that can testify that they saw these people as the actual shooters,” he said.

One key testimony they also expect from such witness is to reveal what type of gun the suspects used.

“It is not yet clear if there is only one shooter who used a 9 mm bullet loaded to an Uzi sub-machine gun or if there are two shooters who used two pistols,” he said.

Andolana said aside from the lack of such witness, the case is “more complicated because of manipulations.”

The latest witness  said that some local politicians masterminded the killing of the Italian priest.

Andolana said these politicians were “afraid Fr. Pops might get in the way of their interests.”

Tentorio was killed three years ago in the car garage of the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Arakan Valley.

Last year, Andolana said the case against all the alleged suspects “was not clearly established” and that the investigation of the National Bureau of Investigation must continue.

Andolana said these “powerful politicians” who appear to be not just local officials “manipulated the investigation to hide their involvement by leading it to different angles.”

“That is why the case should be solid or else it will be just dismissed,” he said.

For Andolana, the motive is clear.

Andolana said Fr. Tentorio helped to educate the indigenous peoples and the peasants of Arakan Valley “to empower them not to be easily swayed by those who want to get their lands.”

Andolana said that since the IPs secured for themselves their Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT), many are now interested to enter Arakan and its surrounding municipalities.

He said banana plantations, mining claims and a mega dam are now coming in to Arakan and “have enticed IP leaders.”

“They know that Fr. Pops was a threat to the expansion of their business interests, their political interests and their counterinsurgency program,” said Andolana.

He said the Army is also “involved.”

“It was in an Army camp that the plan to kill Fr. Pops was made. It was the Army who trained the Bagani Special Force, provided the motorcycle, other resources,” he said.

He said that the Army “is the partner of politicians as they are the funders of the insurgency plan,” said Andolana.

The Atos and a certain John Corbala, alias “Kumander Iring (Cat)” are said to be members of the Bagani Special Force allegedly trained by the 57th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.

However, Army higher-ups said they know the existence of the Bagani Special Force but denied they have “data” on the group and that they were the ones who trained them.

Andolana said they have already asked police and Army officials to “share” their intelligence information regarding Tentorio’s case but have received no indication that they will cooperate.

“This is why we have to make the call for justice louder as the SITU (Special Investigation Team for Unsolved case) is re-checking and reinvestigating everything,” he said.

“Like in the case of Fr. (Tulio) Favali, it was the people who collectively and tirelessly gathered evidence and protected the witnesses. We should do the same for Fr. Pops,” he said.

Andolana said they are preparing to file the case in December but the whole judicial process may take “years.”

“There can be justice if the indigenous people continue to be empowered, educated and other programs and we continue the programs of Fr. Pops,” he said.

Thousands of indigenous peoples, peasants and parishioners from Arakan Valley and other areas where Fr. Tentorio previously served as parish priest gathered at his burial ground in Kidapawan City last October 16 to commemorate the third year of his killing.(

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