COMMENTARY: Fr. Pops and his people’s dreams

ARAKAN, North Cotabato (MindaNews/22 October) — October 17 as I was travelling from Columbio to Kidapawan a close friend called “Fr. Pops was shot!” I thought he was still alive but soon a nurse from the hospital texted” Fr.Pops is already dead, DOA, dead on arrival.” I rushed to the funeraria in Arakan and saw his body…

At the spot where he was shot, I saw the blood under the car. He was about to enter the car and he was holding his cellphone when suddenly
he met the executioner. Many shots, but soundless, nobody heard the shots. The executioner invisible, even though many people were nearby.
He disappeared on a motorcycle like other motorcycle riders who have killed the Vigo couple in 2006 and Boy Billanes in 2009.

From the autopsy later on, we saw what happened inside the body of Fausto. Two kinds of bullets, fragmentation or frangible bullets and hardhead bullets.  One fragmentation bullet at the head with fragments all over his brain, 2 others fragmentation bullets at the heart that spread all over the heart and the lungs, plus one hard bullet to the heart.  Other bullets at the side and the back of the body.

Ten bullets alltogether. Overkill, the vital organs totally destroyed. The Medico-legal said that this kind of frangible bullets are very rare, he mentioned that in his practice he examined  more than 1800 autopsies and he found only one other case with this kind of bullets. We asked how could the killer be provided with such sophisticated deadly weapons? The killer appeared to be so well trained, he knew his bullets, his guns, and he knew how to completely destroy his target, and he was provided not only with special weapons but also with a sure exit. He apparently was in no hurry, confident that nobody could stop him or run after him, even though at that time, there were many people and also many soldiers at the school compound very near.

Who was the expert executioner? The masterminds and all those who assisted in the detailed planning so that the killer knew where to wait for Fausto, he knew the time of his approach to the car and all the possible interferences, all of them are now congratulating each other for a perfect crime. Some of us PIME Fathers told the authorities that the decision to eliminate Fausto appears to have come from very powerful personalities. We do not believe that the President has given the go signal like when Fr. Favali was killed during Martial Law, but it appears to us that these  masterminds cannot be controlled by the highest authorities. Untouchables, above the law. Covered by high level backers, in a system of impunity like it happened with many other extra-judicial killings, like the Vigo couple, Boy Billanes, etc. Countless investigations have not produced conclusive results.

Only the case of Fr. Tullio Favali obtained justice in court and the notorious killers led by Commander Bukay Manero were sentenced, they
served 23 years in prison, then they asked for forgiveness…

Fr. Pops represents the dreams of our common people in the Arakan area, all over the Diocese of Kidapawan, and all over Mindanao, what we call the PDOMES, Poor- Deprived- Oppressed- Marginalized- Exploited- Struggling masses. They tried to kill our dreams but they only added life to Pops. They expanded his presence and influence, now he is a much larger figure, and his death touched the heart of many more people.  He used to be a low profile, shy type avoiding publicity, allergic to interviews or statements, a very simple and quiet active servant of the people as a priest, as a friend, as a companion. He has become now a new sign of the times, the bearer of the dreams of many victims and many dreamers who continue serving the
people in their struggles.

I do not know if he had time to pray before he lost consciousness. Many of us are asking” Where was God?” The Risen Christ said “I will be with you until the end of times! “He was also killed and raised to a new life. I believe that also Pops shares the resurrection of Christ, his new life. His spirit is alive in us, in all who share his dreams… In his last will he quoted the Prophet Micah (6:8)” O MORTALS, YOU WERE TOLD WHAT IS GOOD, WHAT GOD REQUIRES OF YOU: DO JUSTICE, LOVE MERCY, AND WALK HUMBLY WITH YOUR GOD. “He added his last message,” Your dreams are my dreams, your struggles are my struggles, you and I are only partners in building Gods’ Kingdom.” “ANG IMO PANGANDOY AKONG PANGANDOY, ANG IMONG PAKIGBISOG AKONG PAKIGBISOG, IKAW UG AKO USA RA KAUBAN SA PAGPANDAY SA GINGHARIAN SA DIOS.”  …

Pops we pray that we can continue to pursue your mission and the common dreams, with God’s help and your constant inspiration and the joint efforts of all your friends. Walk on!  A long road to liberation. (Fr. Peter Geremia, parish priest of Columbio in Sultan Kudarat, also an Italian missionary from the PIME,  wrote this piece on October 21 in Arakan. Geremia was the intended target of the Manero brothers in 1985. While waiting for him to return from a visit to the hinterland villages on April 11, 1985, the paramilitary group harassed residents in Crossing 125, La Esperanza, Tulunan town in North Cotabato, prompting a resident to run to the parish convent. Geremia’s assistant parish priest, Tullio Favali, also an Italian PIME missionary, responded to the distress call on a motorcycle. He was gunned down, his motorcycle set on fire).