Fr. Tentorio’s murder: ‘We’re losing our voice shouting for justice’
DAVAO CITY–“We’re losing our voice shouting for justice but still no answer.”
Fr. Fausto Tentorio’s killing is gnawing at the seams of hope that justice will still be served.
It didn’t matter that Fr. Pops, as he was fondly called by the lumad he tried to protect and gave his life for, was killed in cold blood and in plain sight inside the Arakan church compound, his parish, on Oct. 17 eight years ago, a killing that was not hidden and would have been easy to solve.
The brazenness of the murder should have driven the government to act swiftly to deliver justice but after all the years, Fr. Peter Geremia, PIME and colleague of Tentorio, is letting out sighs of exhaustion.
The people of Arakan now consider Tentorio as a martyr. Geremia, an Italian like Tentorio, said Fr. Pops’ martyrdom is not by choice but forced upon the late priest by circumstance. He made powerful enemies.
On Oct. 17, Geremia said the group Justice for Fr. Pops would remember the slain priest the way departed loved ones are being remembered—flowers and prayers on the spot where Fr. Pops fell.
A statue of Tentorio would be unveiled in the forest of mahogany trees that Tentorio planted.
Remembering Fr. Pops is the easy part. Fr. Geremias said what is difficult to understand is why it is taking too long for the government to bring justice to the slain priest.
“We’re still trying hard to demand justice for his death but we’re fast losing our voice shouting, Jjustice for Fr. Pops,’ without getting results from the courts,” he said.
Aside from Fr. Pops’ case, those of many other victims of injustices share the same fate, Fr. Geremia added.
Following an investigation by state prosecutor Peter L. Ong in 2017, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Central Mindanao filed a criminal complaint against two military officers in command of the 57th IB and the Special Forces Units at the time of Tentorio’s killing and several members of the paramilitary group Bagani.
Murder complaints were lodged against Lt. Col. Joven Gonzales and Maj. Mark Espiritu, Jan Corbala, aka “Commander Iring” and leader of Bagani; Nene Durado, alleged leader of the anti-Moro group Ilaga;
Jimmy Ato alias “Ian Mateo” and “Jimmy Intar;” Robert Ato alias “Roberto Ato” and “Roberto Intar;” and Joseph Basol; among others.
But a change in leadership at the Department of Justice (DOJ) delayed the proceedings.
When he assumed his post, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra appointed a new team of prosecutors. In December 2018, the new team informed Geremia’s group that the case had been submitted for resolution and trial would follow.
“But how long shall we wait?” Fr. Geremia said. “His death was so sudden, we never expected it,” he said.
If there’s one thing that changed with the death of Fr. Pops, Geremia said it was the way people look at him.
“Before he was just a regular guy,” Geremia said. “Now we see him in a new light. He is a martyr.”
Different groups, including teachers and scholars of lumad schools which Fr. Pops helped establish, would take part in sharing stories about the slain priest even as they, too, are now victims of harassment and Red-tagging./TSB
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