Fr. Fausto ‘Pops’ Tentorio, Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) Italian priest and long-time missionary living among the Manobo tribe in Arakan Valley of North Cotabato, was shot dead this morning inside the Mother of Perpetual Help parish in Arakan, North Cotabato. The assailant is still not identified.
Arakan municipal councilor Leonardo ‘Bobong’ Reovoca, former parish worker of the Diocese of Kidapawan, said that around 7:30 am Tentorio was about to take off for a clergy meeting when a lone assailant aboard a blue motorcycle shot him repeatedly.
Reovoca said the assailant could not be identified as he was wearing a helmet and walked away casually from the site to a parked motorcycle after he made sure his target was dead.
Fr. Tentorio was brought to the Antipas hospital but was declared dead with multiple gunshot wounds in the head and chest.
Fr. Pops, as he is fondly called, first arrived in the Philippines in 1978 and was assigned to North Cotabato in 1985. There he took charge of various services including literacy schools, scholarships, and health services for the indigenous and peasant communities. His immersion in the life of the local communities also made him vocal against militarization which has affected the lumads and peasants in North Cotabato. He has escaped threats to his life from paramilitary groups.
“It is clear that it is the military that rules the country. They have been empowered by Martial Law. For me, as long as the military will not bow to civilian supremacy, no peace will come to communities. Even if we discuss the substantive agenda (in the peace talks), the military will find ways to subvert it. Unless we have a strong president, maybe we can do that. The future does not look bright,” Fr. Pops remarked during a peace forum he attended last year in Davao City with the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP).
Barug Katungod Mindanao condemns the killing of Fr. Pops. Another church leader has been martyred and this belies the military propaganda of bringing “peace and development” through Oplan Bayanihan in the countryside. When even a missionary for the Lumads is targeted, continuing state of impunity in the countryside.
President Benigno Aquino III has his hands bloodied with this latest extrajudicial killing of a Roman Catholic clergy, and a foreign missionary at that. This killing exposes Oplan Bayanihan anew as a mere rehash of the murderous Oplan Bantay Laya of the Arroyo administration. A state policy of killing political dissenters continues to exist and the blood of Fr. Tentorio is another testimony to this continuing state violence.
Tentorio is the second PIME priest killed in North Cotabato. Twenty-six years ago at the height of Martial Law, PIME priest Fr. Tulio Favali was killed in the most gruesome way by the paramilitary group called CHDF (Civilian Home Defense Forces) led by Norberto Manero. Manero was granted presidential pardon in 2008 by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, a move seen by church groups and civil society as further emboldening perpetrators to commit impunity against human rights.
Justice for Fr. Pops Tentorio!
Justice for all Victims of Extra Judicial Killings!
for reference : Atty. Carlos Isagani Zarate
BARUG KATUNGOD MINDANAO
Is a consortium of Mindanao tri-people human rights defenders spearheaded by Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao and supported by the European Union.
DISCLAIMER : The contents of this statement are the sole responsibility of Barug Katungod Mindanao and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union