NBI witness in Fr. Tentorio’s killing said he wasn’t there, only forced to sign affidavit

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 22 May) – The National Bureau of Investigation’s witness to the killing of Italian missionary Fausto “Pops” Tentorio, who was parish priest of Arakan, North Cotabato at the time of his death, did not witness the incident at all, but was forced to say so only out of fear.

Dominador Damlayon, who the NBI said earlier signed a sworn statement attesting he saw the killing on Oct. 17, 2011, said during the three-day inquiry made by the Commission on Human Rights here starting today that he was afraid he could no longer go home if he didn’t sign the affidavit implicating Jimmy and Robert Ato, Jose Sultan Sampulna and Dima Maligudan Sampulna as primary suspects.

He also revealed that he was given P500 after signing the sworn statement at the NBI office in Cagayan de Oro City February last year, aside from another P500 for his and a relative’s fare going back to Arakan.

Lawyer Gregorio Andolana, one of the legal counsels of the Diocese of Kidapawan which has jurisdiction over the church in Arakan, told MindaNews that Damlayon, a Manobo from Barangay Malibatuan in Arakan, was apparently “manipulated” in signing the affidavit. He added that somebody already prepared the affidavit for Damlayon.

But lawyer Angelito Magno, acting director for the NBI in Region 12, said during the inquiry that Damlayon admitted in his presence and other NBI investigators in their Cagayan de Oro office that he personally saw the Atos and the Sampulnas inside the compound when the shooting happened.

The NBI lawyer denied that Damlayon was forced or under threat when he signed the sworn statement.

“He was a credible witness at that time. He told us that he saw the gunmen shoot Fr. Tentorio,” he told the panel headed by CHR Chair Loretta Ann Rosales.

Damlayon said during the inquiry that he eventually retracted his testimony three months later, saying he was not in the compound when the shooting happened.

“Wala ko didto pagkahitabo pero gitudluan lang ko didto sa NBI. Didto lang kami sa balay,” he said during the inquiry. (I wasn’t at the scene when it happened but they only told me what to say at the NBI. I was at the house when it happened.)

Damlayon’s presence at the CHR inquiry was his first public appearance.

Tentorio was gunned down while about to board his vehicle inside the Our Mother of Perpetual parish compound on October 17, 2011. He was supposed to drive to the bishop’s residence in Kidapawan City, 52 kilometers away, for the diocese’s monthly meeting.

Damlayon said at the CHR inquiry that sometime February last year, his relative Roberto Mabilao asked him that they will meet another relative in Marilog District in Davao City.

From Marilog, they then left for Cagayan de Oro around 7 p.m.

While at the NBI office in Cagayan de Oro, Damlayon said he was coached by a certain Loloy what to answer when NBI agents would start asking questions. He said it was the first time he met Loloy, who claimed to be from Davao City. Damlayon had no idea as to Loloy’s identity.

When the CHR panel asked him if he understood the content of the affidavit he signed, Damlayon replied: “Wala ko nakasabot kay English man.” (I understood nothing because it was written in English.)

He added that he signed the he affidavit because he was afraid that he could not go out of the room. “Nahadlok pud ko basi di ko kauli.” (I was also worried that I could not go home anymore.)

Damlayon recounted that the questioning started around 1 p.m. and finished five hours later.

Before leaving Cagayan de Oro City, he added that Loloy gave him and Mabilao P500 each. “Pampalit daw bugas ug uban pang kinahanglan sa among pamilya.” (We were told to use the money to buy rice and other needs of our families.)

They were given P500 more for their fare going back to Arakan, he said.

The CHR inquiry aims to dig deeper into the murder of the Italian missionary, Rosales said. She added that the inquiry hopes to gather more information that could help resolve the case.