Cop, trader tagged in Fr. Pops’ slay
ARAKAN, North Cotabato—This town’s former police chief, a local businessman and at least two other men have been implicated in the murder of Italian missionary priest Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio by a suspect tagged as the gunman and arrested earlier by authorities.
The alleged masterminds, however, denied involvement in the killing.
In a sworn statement submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation, Jimmy Ato, the alleged gunman, identified William Buenaflor and Senior Insp. Benjamin Rioflorido as masterminds in the killing of the Italian priest on Oct. 17, 2011.
Buenaflor, a businessman who entered politics and lost in the 2010 mayoral race here, said he was surprised at being linked to the murder.
Rioflorido, interviewed by a radio station in Kidapawan City, also denied involvement in the Tentorio murder.
“I am innocent and don’t know why I was being implicated in the priest’s killing,” Rioflorido, now assigned to the provincial police headquarters, said in the radio interview.
Ato, however, said in his sworn statement that he wasn’t the one who pulled the trigger. He pointed to brothers Jose and Dima Sampulna as the gunmen.
“I only served as a lookout when they killed Father Pops,” newspapers here quoted Ato as saying in his affidavit.
Businessman Buenaflor said Ato’s statement was outrageous. He denied involvement in mining, which people close to Tentorio said the slain priest fought and for which he was murdered.
Buenaflor also denied involvement in a proposed hydropower plant in this town, a project which Tentorio also campaigned against.
“What reasons do I have? I don’t have personal grudges against Father Pops. In fact, I always attended Masses he celebrated,” said Buenaflor.
In his affidavit leaked to reporters in Cagayan de Oro City, Ato said Buenaflor, Rioflorido and the Sampulna brothers plotted Tentorio’s murder.
Ato said he was present when the murder was being planned in the house of Buenaflor, who is also engaged in the trading of agricultural products.
Ato said as a resident of Kulaman Valley, he also knew the Sampulna brothers.
Ato said days before the killing, the Sampulna brothers met him at a store and asked him to accompany them to Buenaflor’s house.
He said at the meeting in Buenaflor’s house, Buenaflor, Rioflorido and the Sampulna brothers hatched the plan to kill Tentorio.
He said he begged off from carrying out the plot because “I was thinking of my children and I do not want to sacrifice their future.”
Ato said the Sampulna brothers later took over the task of killing the priest but asked him to act as a lookout. He said his brother, Robert, who is now in the custody of North Cotabato Rep. Nancy Catamco, was not involved in the plot.
“I don’t personally know them. And if I was the mastermind, why should I plan the murder in my house? My children and my wife would surely know about it,” Buenaflor said.
He said instead of leaking Ato’s statement, the NBI should have sought him out. Carlo Agamon and Williamor Magbanua, Inquirer Mindanao