No prosecution two years after Fr. Pops’ murder

Oct. 17, 2013


Davao City — On the second year death anniversary of Italian missionary Fausto ‘Pops’ Tentorio, colleagues reiterate their call for justice as they bewail the fact that authorities have stopped the probe on the priest’s killing.

In an interview following a forum at Ateneo de Davao University on Tuesday, private prosecutor Attorney Gregorio Andolana said the investigation should continue on the four suspects apprehended by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) since the case against them was not clearly established.

Andolana said they are awaiting developments from an inter-agency committee composed of the Commission on Human Rights Region XII and the Department of Justice which is handling unsolved extra-judicial killings.

“The case of Father Pops was considered as a high profile case. It is included among the cases to be solved by this inter-agency committee,” he said.

Andolana said the CHR has been following up both the DOJ and NBI on the development of the probe.

The NBI stopped its probe last February of 2012 after charges were filed against four suspects.

Witnesses produced by NBI retracted their earlier statements, and issued sworn statements saying they were instructed to give false testimonies by a mysterious person identified as “Loloy” who was present during the investigation.

But the support group Justice for Father Pops Movement (JPM) said witnesses verified two suspects, Jimmy and Robert Ato, to have been involved in the priest’s murder.

The group said witnesses could not point two other suspects, Jose and Dimas Sampulna, as involved on the case.

They also said witnesses point to the involvement of the paramilitary group “Bagani”, organized by the Philippine Army’s 57th Infantry Battalion, who previously threatened Fr. Tentorio for his involvement with indigenous peoples in his parish in Arakan, North Cotabato.

“We know that (Fr. Tentorio’s) active participation in defending the lumads and their community in Arakan was the reason why he was killed,” said Andolana.

Tentorio, of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) served in Arakan Valley since the late 1980s. He built schools for indigenous children and helped set up sustainable agricultural programs and organizations for the indigenous communities.

He was shot dead in his parish compound on October 17, 2011.

Tentorio’s colleague, Fr. Peter Geremia, called the suspects cowards, “who wouldn’t admit to the claims and are still hiding under the shadows of impunity.”

“Two years since the killing of Fr. Fausto, so many investigators were unable to investigate elements of the state forces that are still hiding under the practice of impunity which is an extension of Martial Law. So much waste of public funds, so many other cases denied the chance of justice in the court of law,” he added.

Fr. Geremia said the Aquino administration must solve cases such as Tentorio’s murder to prove it has the will to stop impunity.

“Can the present Aquino administration show that it is possible to obtain justice for the killing of Fr. Pops as it was possible under Cory’s administration to obtain justice in court for Father Tullio Favali, PIME?” Fr. Geremia asked.

Meanwhile, the human rights group Karapatan said 22 persons have already been killed extra-judicially in Southern Mindanao under Aquino’s presidency since July 2010. The unsolved cases included Tentorio’s murder. (Earl O. Condeza/

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