Manero honors Feb. 2005 pact with Kidapawan Diocese

Given the chance to go to Italy, he told reporters before leaving the Bishop’s House shortly before 2 p.m. that  he would like to visit Favali’s family and personally ask their forgiveness.

His lawyer, Vicente Andiano, told reporters they would respect the 2005 agreement and would return portions of the land taken from the B’laans before but acknowledged they “still have to go to the place” to find out if the lands had not been occupied by others, given that his client had been in jail from 1985 to January 2008.

Manero renewed his commitment during a closed-door meeting with representatives of the Kidapawan Diocese, the witnesses to the 1985 murder of Favali, Manero’s relatives and lawyer, at the conference room of the Bishop’s House from 10:46 a.m. to 11:51 a.m.

Many of those who came out of the conference room were wiping their tears as they walked to the chapel on the other side of the Bishop’s House for a prayer-service prior to visiting the gravesite of Father Favali.

Manero’s family had earlier requested a no-media conference.

Priests and nuns who were present during the closed-door conference told MindaNews the first person who cried during the meeting was Manero.

Manero was the leader of a paramilitary group that killed Favali on April 11, 1985. He also set on fire Favali’s motorbike, whose remnants had since been placed behind the wooden cross bearing Favali’s name at the gravesite in the compound of the Bishop’s House.

He kissed a ceramic photograph of Favali on the marble marker (see other story) after which he moved a few steps forward to touch the priest’s bike which he set on when he was 39.

Manero is turning 62 on June 2.

Manero’s commitment to the Diocese of Kidapawan to become “an instrument for the attainment of lasting peace and conciliation,”  is contained in a five-page agreement he signed on February 3, 2005.

The agreement was Manero’s response to the Diocese’s decision not to pose any objection should Manero be granted presidential pardon.

Earlier, on September 22, 2004, Manero wrote a handwritten letter in Ilonggo to then Kidapawan Bishop Romulo Valles (now Archbishop of Zamboanga), begging forgiveness from God and the Bishop and to help him gain freedom and change his ways. He sent a separate 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.

Manero signed the February 3, 2005 agreement in the national penitentiary when the Diocese sent its representatives — Andolana and Fr. Peter Geremia, the person Manero’s group intended to kill that day,  to the national penitentiary to air concerns regarding Manero’s September 2004 letter. He took the hand of Geremia for the traditional “mano po” and embraced him.

As soon as he entered the conference room today, he did the same thing to Geremia.

After receiving the letters in September 2004, 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. He was not.

He was freed on January 25, after completing his prison sentence, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales said.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)