Church group welcomes filing of charges vs soldiers, paramilitary in murder of  Italian priest

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 30 Dec) — The Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) has called on government to immediately prosecute the soldiers and paramilitary elements suspected to be behind the 2011 murder of Italian priest Fausto “Fr. Pops” Tentorio, following the release of the Department of Justice’s reinvestigation results which recommended the filing of charges against the suspects.

In a December 28 statement issued by PCPR spokesperson Bro. Ronald Balase, CSsR, the group called for the “immediate prosecution of those involved” and urged the DOJ and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to “follow through on its findings and immediately arrest the perpetrators identified in its report.”

MARCH FOR JUSTICE. Parishioners and friends of Fr. Fausto Tentorio join the march on October 23, 2011 from the parish church in the poblacion up to the Notre Dame of Arakan in Doroluman, five
kilometers away. Tentorio was gunned down in the parish compound on 17 October 2011. MindaNews file photo by Ruby Thursday More

The DOJ report named Lt. Col. Joven Gonzales, Major Mark Espiritu, and other members of the Bagani Special Force, a paramilitary group operating in the area.

Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio, an Italian priest who had been serving Mindanao since 1978  and was head of the Tribal Filipinos Apostolate of the Diocese of Kidapawan, was gunned down at around 8:30 a.m. on October 17, 2011, just as he was preparing to leave his convent in Arakan Valley, North Cotabato, for the 9 a.m.  Presbyterium in Kidapawan City.

Tentorio was a staunch anti-mining advocate, and had worked with Lumad communities in Sultan Kudarat and Arakan.

An ABS-CBN report  on December 27 said the 32-page report of the DOJ panel headed by senior assistant state prosecutor Peter Ong, directed the withdrawal of the attempted murder and murder complaint before the North Cotabato Provincial Prosecutor’s Office against Jose Sultan Sampulna and Dima Sampulna, and ordered the filing of a new murder complaint against Lt. Col. Joven Gonzales, Major Mark Espiritu,  Jimmy Ato aka “Ian Mateo” and “Jimmy Intar”; Roberto Ato aka “Roberto Ato” and “Roberto Intar”; Jan Corbala aka “Johnny Corbala,” “Jhon Corbala” “Jun Karbala,” and “Kumander Iring”; Nene Durado aka “Nene Dorado”; Kaing Labi; Joseph Basol; Edgar Enoc; Romulo Tapgos; William Buenaflor Alias “Katong”; several “Richard Does” who are members of the military conducting Bayanihan activity at rakan Elementary School on October 17, 2011; and  several “John Does” and “Jane Does.”

The report noted that the DOJ panel said Corbala is a military asset and a Bagani Special Force commander, who allegedly told Durado, Labi, Basol, Enoc, and Bayawan in a meeting that the military wanted Tentorio dead because he was a supporter of the New People’s Army (NPA), and that the soldiers allegedly did nothing “before and after” Tentorio was fired at.

“The inaction of the military personnel before and after the gunshots were fired reveal their complicity to the killing of Fr. Pops,” said the panel.

The PCPR said it also “stands firm to hold former President Benigno Aquino III accountable for complicity in the political killings committed during his term, and for subsequently allowing impunity among members and officials in the military.”

It also assailed the continued use of Executive Order 546, which “legitimizes the creation of paramilitary groups and private armies.” The EO, issued by then-president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2006, “has been consistently used by the government in its counterinsurgency program, targeting activists, human rights defenders, and peasant and indigenous advocates.”

It said paramilitary groups, including the Bagani Special Force implicated in the killing of Tentorio “should immediately be dismantled” and EO 546 revoked. (MindaNews)