Colleague of slain Italian priest hits ‘slow investigation’

ARAKAN, North Cotabato (MindaNews/17 October) – Three years after, the supposed superbody tasked to investigate the killing of Italian missionary Fausto “Pops” Tentorio has yet to prove its worth, a colleague of the slain priest said.

Fr. Peter Geremia was referring to the Special Investigating Team for Unsolved Cases (SITU), which was mandated by President Benigno Aquino III through the Department of Justice to solve high profile cases.

“No cases yet have been filed before the court, still under investigation. It has yet to prove that it is a superbody,” Geremia told Mindanews Thursday shortly before joining the gathering inside the parish compound here.

Geremia said he was hoping the SITU could hasten the investigation. But he complained that the process has been “very slow”.

Tentorio, who belonged to the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), was gunned down inside the Our Mother of Perpetual Help parish on October 17, 2011.

One problem facing the investigation is the retraction of statements by the suspects and supposed witnesses.

Lawyer Gregorio Andolana, the Diocese of Kidapawan’s legal counsel, compared Tentorio’s case to the murder of another PIME missionary, Tulio Favali, on 11 April 1985.

“Unlike the case of Favali, there were eyewitnesses. But in Father Pops’ case, not even one,” he said.

Andolana further disclosed that the SITU has yet to conduct the ballistics tests on the 9mm slugs that were recovered from Tentorio’s body.

“They have yet to conduct cross-matching of the slugs, three years after the killing,” he said.

The lawyer also cited the unwillingness of the military to cooperate in the investigation.

Parishioners in Arakan have accused the military as behind the killing of Tentorio using the lumad paramilitary group known as Bagani Special Force.

The military trained and armed the Bagani Special Force to augment them in counter-insurgency campaign, Andolana said.

But he admitted that the lack of eyewitnesses to the actual shooting also affected the progress of the investigation.

‘Probe done by December’

“We told SITU that the witnesses may not last long under the Witness Protection Program because they have been separated from their families for three years now,” Geremia said.

He cited that the current setup is causing family problems among witnesses.

He said that in their meeting last October 13, the SITU assured it will finish the investigation and submit its findings to Regional Prosecutor Al Calica by December. (Keith Bacongco/MindaNews)