No word yet from DOJ on Tentorio case

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/11 October) — The Department of Justice central office is yet to release its decision on the resolution submitted by the provincial prosecutor of North Cotabato three weeks ago on the killing of Italian missionary Fr. Fausto Tentorio a year ago this month.

North Cotabato provincial prosecutor Jose Agerico de Guzman said they already sent to the DOJ in Manila the results of their investigation for its approval.

De Guzman denied accusations they were delaying the investigation of the case, saying it would have been completed early this year if they had studied only the set of suspects presented by the Special Investigation Task Group which led the investigation into the murder.

Tentorio, parish priest of the Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Arakan, North Cotabato was shot dead on October 17, 2011 inside the parish compound.

Two sets of suspects

In February this year, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the task group led by Chief Supt. Lester Camba, deputy regional director of the Police Regional Office in Southwest Mindanao submitted to the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office their findings on the case.

De Guzman said the task group charged four of the primary suspects in the killing, including alleged triggerman Jimmy Ato and his brother Roberto, Jose Sampulna and his uncle, Dima Sampulna.

However, de Guzman’s office received two months ago another set of documents presented by the group of another Italian missionary, Fr. Peter Geremia.

Geremia’s documents excluded the Sampulnas but pointed to one Commander Iring and four of his men as suspects too.

De Guzman said the presentation of another set of suspects put them in a dilemma “because there were some evidences presented by the NBI not found in the group of Father Geremia and vice-versa.”

“I understand that there were several conferences between the Italian consulate and the DoJ office that took place in Manila.   So, in order to avoid the DoJ Manila office to always call our attention, we expedited the process and we sent it after we’ve finished our job.   It’s no longer in our decision.   All the things had been laid down and sent to the DoJ,” he explained.

Slow pace of justice

Geremia said the slow pace of justice has saddened his and his group.

“We were told to just wait for the resolution of the prosecutor in North Cotabato.   The prosecutor was given a number of days to submit their resolution.   But the office has extended its investigation for several days now.  It is, as if, they could not come up with a conclusion,” he said.

The priest said he believes that what was presented by the NBI and the task group to the prosecutor were only “partial” evidences.

“I believe that this is a result of someone interfering with the witnesses.   Also, there are influential people blocking the investigation.   I also think that people connected with the masterminds are trying to pollute, to throw in false testimonies in order to force the agency to dismiss the case,” he said.

Geremia said that the alleged masterminds include an influential businessman in Arakan town and a former police chief.

“These two, however, were not charged by the NBI and the task force,” he stressed as he challenged the alleged masterminds to execute an affidavit and present it in court.

“If you want to prove you’re innocent or you’re not involved, then, sign a statement with your testimony, and then bring out the truth.”

Meanwhile, Jimmy Ato was already transferred from the custody of the NBI in General Santos City to the Maguindanao Provincial Jail in Cotabato City.

Noe Dasmarinas, agent at the NBI-12, said that they turned over Ato to the provincial jail based on a commitment order from Judge Bansawan Ibrahim of the Regional Trial Court Branch 13 in Cotabato City on August 30, 2012.

Ato’s transfer, however, was not due to his alleged involvement in the killing of Tentorio but for a destructive arson case with homicide that happened 15 years ago in Upi, Maguindanao. (Malu Cadelina Manar/MindaNews)