State agents killed Fr. Tentorio?

QUEZON CITY (MindaNews/21 October) — Government prosecutors have entertained the possibility that state agents were behind the killing of Italian missionary Fr. Fausto Tentorio, in Arakan, North Cotabato.

The Department of Justice is now looking into this angle with the identification of two suspects, Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan said in a media conference on extrajudicial killings at the University of the Philippines.

Fr. Pops, as Tentorio was fondly called, was gunned down early morning on October 17 as he was about to leave his convent in Arakan for a clergy meeting in Kidapawan City.

Baraan said they have also been asked to look into what has happened to other cases of extralegal killings where the victims, like Tentorio, were known to be actively involved in human rights and related issues.

He said it is unjust that government resources and weapons would be used in killing hapless civilians.

“But I could not give a categorical statement for now,” the official added.

Meanwhile, various groups paid tribute yesterday afternoon for the slain priest at the Assumption Church in Davao City.

Religious groups, progressive organizations, his scholars, friends and close colleagues whom Tentorio had worked as a missionary in the communities of North Cotabato and in Davao del Norte, came to recall what he had shared to them.

“Pops had always been the person the people in Arakan can ask for help. From food, work, education, building, day care center, wedding of a daughter, hospitalization of a child, whatever it is, Pops always comes to share his blessings,” said Pedro Gumanao, a leader of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.

Gumanao alleged that in 2003 a group called Alamara-Bagani had wanted to kill the priest but he was protected by the Lumads.

“When I learned of his death through a text message, I couldn’t help but feel like it is the end of the world. Pops had been really very supportive of the people. In fact, when he arrived in Arakan, the place was not yet a municipality, and the road was a major problem, so he went about fixing the road and providing water system for the people,” he added.

In another testimony, Jun Lubiano, a staffer of Pops said: “There can be no other reason for Pops’ killing but his firm stand against development aggression. He was a member of the Arakan Municipality’s Peace and Order Committee but in 2007, the military had requested the local government to opt him out because he was very vocal against the militarization in the area.”

“When he was gunned down, two military personnel were about to enter the church but when one of our staff, Gerry called out to them for help, they turned away instead and said that they’re going to inform their official,” he said.

A number of Tentorio’s scholars from the Ata-Manobo tribe in Davao del Norte made a presentation on their lives in the rural community and how the priest’s effort to educate them had changed their lives.

“Thanks to Fr. Pops, we know now how to write our names in A-B-K-D, and we are now able to speak in Visayan so the military can understand what we want to say and they won’t laugh at us anymore,” a child said during the presentation.

After the testimonies the Justice for Father Fausto ‘Pops’ Tentorio Movement was launched, followed by a mass. (Ferdinandh Cabrera and Joan Mae Soco-Bantayan/MindaNews)