Brother of suspect in Fr. Tentorio killing denies involvement; seeks politician’s help

KIDAPAWAN CITY  (MindaNews/31 December) —  Fearing for his life and his family’s, the brother of the primary suspect in the killing of Italian missionary in North Cotabato, sought the help of Rep. Nancy Catamco and is now under her protective custody until a warrant for his arrest is served.

Roberto Ato, a Teduray from North Upi, Maguindanao, said he was surprised to learn he was being pursued by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in his village because of his alleged involvement in the October 17 killing of  Fr. Fausto Tentorio.

“That’s a big lie. I was not pursued. Also, contrary to reports, I didn’t have an armed engagement with any of the NBI agents that raided the house of my brother, Jimmy, last December  29,” Roberto told police officers during a briefing Friday night at the office of  Catamco, the 2nd district representative to Congress.

Roberto said that two days before the arrest of his brother at Sitio Iwak-Iwak in Barangay Kulaman Valley in Arakan town, a former village official introduced to their clan two persons who identified themselves as miners who were prospecting in the area.

These two persons were treated well.  In fact, they stayed in my brother’s house. We did not expect they would treat us this way. When my brother was arrested, he asked why.  But they refused to answer him,” recounted Roberto.

It was only through media reports that Roberto learned his brother was flown from Cagayan de Oro City to Manila and was presented to the public as Tentorio’s killer.  He also learned later that the two persons who stayed in their village were actually NBI agents.

During the briefing in her office Friday night, Catamco told Supt. Raul Supiter, deputy provincial police director in North Cotabato, that she does not have any plan to block any police operation that would solve the killing of the Italian missionary but stressed it should observe due process.

“I would not allow that authorities just pick up anybody and detain him without due process.   I was told that there is yet no warrant for the arrest of Jimmy and Roberto as regards the killing of Father Tentorio,” said Catamco.

Supiter showed Catamco a warrant for the arrest of Jimmy for a crime he committed when he was 16 years old.   The crime happened in his hometown in North Upi, Maguindanao.

According to the warrant issued in August 1995 by the Regional Trial Court branch 13 in Cotabato City, Jimmy was accused of destructive arson with homicide.

“So you see?  The court order showed that Jimmy was arrested for arson and not because of his alleged involvement in the priest’s killing,” said Catamco.

Catamco said she would keep Roberto in her custody unless authorities present to her the arrest warrant.

“For the meantime, I tasked my legal counsel to be his lawyer.  He must be represented by a lawyer in any investigation that would take place,” she said.  Catamco’s lawyer is  Christopher Cabilen. (Malu Cadelina-Manar/MindaNews)