DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/25 January) – Norberto Manero, Jr. affixed his signature to a five-page agreement with the Diocese of Kidapawan on February 3, 2005 where he “seriously committed to do and perform” eight things to make him “an instrument for the attainment of lasting peace and conciliation.”
Earlier, on September 22, 2004, Manero wrote a handwritten letter in Ilonggo, to Kidapawan Bishop Romulo Valles, begging forgiveness from God and the Bishop and to help him gain freedom and change his ways. He sent a separate handwritten letter, also on the same day, to lawyer Gregorio Andolana, chief counsel of the Diocese of Kidapawan, asking help for his release.
Manero had wanted a presidential pardon. And since his revoked pardon under the Estrada administration in 1999, a new rule had been imposed for those seeking pardon: that the aggrieved parties pose no objection.
The Diocese conducted several meetings with the witnesses to the murder and the group “gave their unanimous affirmation to forgive, in the name of God, those who have in one way or another conspired in the murder of Fr. Favali with the strong motivation that (Manero) shall be an instrument for the attainment of lasting peace and conciliation,” the agreement states.
Manero “seriously committed to do and perform” the following:
– that “he shall not allow himself to be used by dirty traditional politicians or military elements, or any influential people, particularly by vigilantes and fanatical groups;
– that “he shall at all times ascertain that he will not cause any harm nor any threat on any form or harm to any of the witnesses, the lawyers of Fr. Favali, the priests and the lay leaders of the Diocese of Kidapawan as well as members of the Basic Christian Communities;
– that “under strict confidentiality, he will reveal the circumstances that brought about the plan to kill Fr. Peter Geremia which then resulted in the killing of Fr. Tullio Favali;
– that “he will ask forgiveness for all the other victims at that time he was used by elements of the Martial Law Regime;
– that “he shall return portions of the land they took from the B’laan tribe” (a handwritten notation states 100 hectares in Purok 6, Kinilis, Polomolok, South Cotabato);
– that “whenever he gets involved in movies or media, he shall consult and secure the written consent from” the Diocese of Kidapawan and Bishop Valles, Fr. Geremia and Andolana, “whose consent in such endeavor is mandatory to ascertain that good values are projected and that he contributes for the cause of justice and peace.” A handwritten notation states “may share ang mga tistigo” (the witnesses should have share from the movies);
– that “he shall fully indemnify the private complainants as well as pay the damages directed on him by the court;”
– that “to prevent any possible recurrence of violent tendencies or behavior, he hereby authorizes the Department of Justice to make himself undergo special Psychological and Psychiatric Examination on a regular basis, and that the results thereof be furnished” to the Diocese of Kidapawan, Bishop Valles, Fr. (Peter) Geremia and Andolana; and
– that “violation of any of the foregoing may cause the revocation or cancellation of the executive clemency being sought for.”
Under the same agreement, the Diocese of Kidapawan, Bishop Pueblos, Father Geremia and Andolana “shall favorably recommend to Her Excellency, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to grant Executive Clemency by way of a Presidential Pardon unto and in favor of Norberto Manero, Jr., with the concomitant option to assure the fulfillment of the herein stipulation.”
The recommendations were made and Manero hoped he would be freed soon.
Manero, however, was freed not through Presidential pardon but for allegedly completing his prison sentence.
Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, in his January 25 resolution said Manero should be freed based on President Fidel Ramos’ decision to commute Manero’s life sentence to 24 years.
In December 1999, then President Joseph Estrada pardoned Manero but recalled the order after it caused outrage when his release became public in early February 2000 and the Department of Justice recommended its revocation, following the discovery of an archived case – the killing of the Mamalumpong brothers – for which Manero was brought to the Sarangani provincial jail on February 27, 2000.
But on March 22, 2001, Manero escaped from the Sarangani provincial jail and was fetched by helicopter by Presidential Assistant for Mindanao Jesus Dureza from his hiding camp in Polomolok, South Cotabato on April 9.
A year later, on April 15, 2002, he was acquitted by the Sarangani Regional Trial for the murder of the Mamalumpong brothers and sent back to the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinupa to serve the remaining years of his sentence in the Favali murder case and additional years for evasion of service of sentence during his escape in 1992 and 2001.
In his resolution, Gonzalez noted that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines held no objection to Manero’s release.
Father Geremia, the principal target for murder by Manero’s group, said he hopes Manero will renew the commitments he made in the February 3, 2005 agreement when he visits the Diocese on February 4.
Manero has confirmed to Andolana that he would visit the Diocese of Kidapawan morning of February 4, a Monday. Priests from all over the Diocese gather in Kidapawan on Mondays.
Manero and seven of his co-accused were each sentenced to “reclusion perpetua” (life imprisonment) for the murder of Favali; another term of not less than two years, four months and one day of prision correccional, as minimum, to eight years and 20 days of prision mayor for attempted murder; and for Manero alone, an additional imprisonment of not less than four years, nine months and one day of prision correccional, as minimum, to six years of prision correctional, as maximum, for arson. It was Manero who set on fire the motorcycle of Favali.
Aside from the prison terms, the court also ordered Manero’s group to pay the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), the congregation to which Favali belonged, a civil indemnity of P12,000; attorney’s fees in the sum of P50,000 for each of the eight or a total of P400,000; court appearance fee of P10,000 for every day the case was set for trial; moral damages of P100,000 and to pay proportionately the costs.
(The Supreme Court in 19993 raised the civil indemnity from P12,000 to P50,000 “in accordance with existing jurisprudence” which it said should be paid to the lawful heirs and not the PIME. The high court alos eleted the award of moral damages but awarded exemplary damages of the same amount, P100,000).
In the attempted murder of Rufino Robles, the group was also ordered to pay Rufino Robles P20,000 as attorney’s fees and P2,000 as court appearance fee for every day of trial and to pay proportionally for the costs.
Manero, having been convicted also for arson, was also ordered by the court to pay the PIME P19,000 for the motorcycle he burned.
The motorcycle can be found in the gravesite of Favali at the compound of the Bishop’s House in Balindog, Kidapawan. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)