KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews / 17 Oct) – The cry for justice still continues and grows a year after the death of Italian missionary Fausto “Pops” Tentorio of the Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions (PIME), said his fellow missionary Peter Geremia.
But Geremia could not hide his disappointment on some Department of Justice officials who had earlier promised to come over to discuss the case. None of them paid a visit.
“It’s been a year since we’ve been calling an investigation but we got no results. Justice delayed, justice denied,” lamented the Italian priest after a mass held beside the cemetery inside the compound of the Diocese of Kidapawan on Wednesday.
At least 1,500 people, mostly indigenous people from Arakan, gathered at the compound to commemorate the first death anniversary of Fr. Pops.
Sixteen priests were present at the mass, which was held under the shade of the trees where a makeshift altar was built beside the grave.
But despite his disappointment over the case, Geremia said he was glad that the atmosphere today was like the resurrection of Tentorio.
“Last year, it was a climate of sadness because everyone was distraught by the killing. But today, Pops’ spirit is alive through the songs and through the people,” he said.
After the mass, the parishioners lit candles on top of Tentorio’s grave surrounded with flowers.
Geremia admitted that some people have been telling him that nothing will happen to the case.
But he said he is still hopeful. “We hope that this time the government will hear the cry of the people. Maybe a much louder cry is needed to awaken the government,” he stressed.
Geremia reiterated that he still feels that someone is blocking the case because it has not been progressing. “To end this climate of suspicion, we hope that sincere investigation should be conducted, and to also investigate why there seems to be no action on the case at all.” He stressed that unless law enforcers do these, then it is impossible to attain justice.
Geremia has earlier told MindaNews that the task force that was created to handle the case has reportedly stopped working and has not given them any update on the case.
Arakan councilor Richard Gayatin told MindaNews that he is also hoping that concerned government agencies will not wait for the second death anniversary of Tentorio before taking concrete actions.
More pain for the Lumads
Norma Capuyan, chair of the Apo Sandawa Lumadnong Panaghiusa Cotabato (ASLPC), told MindaNews that it pains them more because October is Indigenous Peoples Month and justice remains elusive for Tentorio, who was known for his service to the Lumads.
Capuyan believes that Tentorio was killed because of his strong position against the entry of vast plantations in Arakan, which could dislodge the Lumads from their ancestral domain.
“The perpetrators believe that if Tentorio is gone, the Lumads will be weakened. But his killing has even more strengthened us to continue what he has started,” she pointed out.
Adso Diaz, 54, told MindaNews that it also pains them that it’s been a year already and yet no justice has been served for Tentorio.
Diaz, a Manobo farmer from Barangay White Kulaman in Arakan, added that he and his fellow Lumads owe Tentorio so much, particularly the education for their children.
“He has been telling us about the importance of education for our children,” he added. Two of his children in high school have benefited from the scholarship program of Tentorio.
At 1 p.m. on Wednesday, the parishioners held a silent protest in front of the Hall of Justice while most of the group, accompanied by militant organizations, held a protest at the junction going to the headquarters of the 57th Infantry Battalion in Makilala.
Tentorio’s parishioners have accused the military as behind the killing. But the military has repeatedly denied the accusation.
At around 3 p.m., the group marched from the Hall of Justice to the Kidapawan Cathedral. The parishioners gathered at the cathedral’s gymnasium for a concert in the evening and the launching of the music album dedicated to Tentorio. (Keith Bacongco / MindaNews)