Priest aiding investigation of Italian priest’s slay seeks Roxas helpBy Germelina Lacorte
DAVAO CITY, Philippines – A leader of the Justice for Fr. Pops Movement called on the new secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to fulfill the promise made by former Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo to look into the operations of the paramilitary group Bagani, following threats to his life.
Fr. Peter Geremia, the chairperson of the Justice for Fr. Pops Movement, which has been monitoring the investigation of the murder of Fr. Faustino “Pops” Tentorio, urged Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, the new DILG chief who replaced Robredo, to investigate the Bagani group as Robredo had promised, as the climate of fear continued to prevail over Arakan.
Geremia said nine days before Robredo died in a plane crash on August 18, Robredo sent him a text message informing him he had ordered the Cotabato police to deal with the Bagani group operating in the boundary areas of Bukidnon, Davao and Cotabato.
“I have directed the provincial director of the Cotabato police to make plans to deal with the paramilitary group Bagani,” said Robredo in a text message to Geremia on August 9.
“But this may have to be implemented after the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters) threats subside,” Robredo added, referring to the Moro rebel breakaway group led by Ameril Umra Kato.
One of the Bagani leaders had been identified by new witnesses as among those behind the killing of the Italian Tentorio. But the killing of two other Bagani leaders by New People’s Army in July, prompted the group to declare a pangayaw (tribal war), allegedly targeting militant lumad groups Tinananon-Kulamanon Lumadnong Panaghiusa (Tikulpa), the Arakan Progressive Peasant Organization in Arakan, and Church leaders including Geremia.
Staff members of the Justice for Pops Movement said Geremia was supposed to say Mass in Mati, a place near barangay Dalag in Arakan, early in August this year, but people prevented him from going to the area following the Bagani’s declaration of pangayaw. Geremia then contacted Robredo about his ordeal and Robredo promised to look into the problem after the BIFF problem subsided.
On April 12, private prosecutors for the Tentorio case, through the Diocese of Kidapawan, and the PIME fathers included the Bagani leader Jan Corbala, also known as “Kumander Iring” and four other Bagani members, in the list of suspects in the new charges that they filed.
The group is pushing for the inclusion of Corbala, based on the testimonies of news witnesses who came out.
But Geremia expressed concern over the fact that the group has been allowed to roam the area fully armed, even coercing Church workers into petitioning the government to clear his name, or else blood would spill again in Arakan.
“The climate of fear continues in Arakan, where the Baganis accused of the Tentorio killing are still going around the area armed,” Geremia said.
Tags: Activists , armed groups , Bagani , Crime , crime victim , Fr. Faustino Tentorio , Fr. Pops Movement , grave threats , law and justice , Murder , News , paramilitary groups , Peter Geremia , priests , Regions