KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews / 3 Jan) – Agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) from Northern Mindanao (Region 10) have returned the warrant of arrest to the Regional Trial Court branch 13 in Cotabato City where the case of destructive arson and homicide filed 16 years ago against the suspected killer of the Italian missionary originated, a top NBI official said.
But the accused, Jimmy Ato, a Teduray from North Upi, Maguindanao, was not presented to the court, according to Atty. Virgil Mendez, deputy chief of the Regional Operations Service of NBI-10.
Mendez said that after the court has taken cognizance of the arrest of Ato, they would file a motion or letter request that the accused remain in their protection until such time charges in connection with the killing of Fr. Fausto Tentorio October last year in Arakan, North Cotabato are filed against him.
“The motion or letter request will follow if the court issue an order directing the NBI to turn over the living person of Jimmy Ato to the issuing RTC court in Cotabato City,” said Mendez.
“Definitely, we would turn over Ato to the court in Cotabato City in due time. That’s the next step we would follow,” he stressed.
Ato, based from testimonies of several witnesses, is being implicated in the killing of Fr. Tentorio of the Pontifical Institute of Foreign Mission (PIME).
Tentorio was priest of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Arakan, a hinterland town in North Cotabato.
He had served the lumads in the province for more than 20 years, reports said.
“Ato’s involvement in Tentorio’s killing is still being investigated. Although we arrested Ato based on the warrant issued by RTC 13 in 1995, there were witnesses saying the suspect was seen before and during the killing,” Mendez said in an interview over the Catholic-run DXND here.
This as natives from Barangay Kulaman Valley in Arakan, where Ato resides, trooped to the office of Rep. Nancy Catamco (Cotabato, 2nd Dist.) to show support to Roberto Ato, Jimmy’s younger brother.
Fearing for his life and the safety of his family, Roberto has sought Catamco’s help.
The Atos are among Catamco’s leaders in Arakan town.
Roberto, according to reports, was considered an accomplice in the killing.
Accordingly, he was the driver of the blue Honda XRM motorcycle the suspect used as get-away vehicle when the priest was killed Oct. 17 last year.
But at this time, Mendez said, the NBI will not arrest Roberto even if they know he was taken under Catamco’s custody.
“We have yet no legal basis for arresting Roberto. This is despite the fact that he has already been identified. Also, my men said Roberto was carrying a gun, and in fact fired it at the time his elder brother was being arrested in their village. But we want to erase the impression that we arrest a person without a legal basis,” said Mendez. (Malu Cadeliña Manar / MindaNews)