Colleague of murdered Italian priest laments delayed justice
DAVAO CITY, Davao del Sur, Philippines — A colleague in the congregation of murdered Italian Catholic priest Fr. Fausto Tentorio, also known as Father Pops, expressed dismay over the snail’s pace of the case in court.
Fr. Peter Geremia of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) said that 11 years after Father Pops was killed inside the Mother of Perpetual Help compound in Arakan, Cotabato in October 2011, only one of the seven accused had been arrested while the six others were still at large.
Arrested suspect Ricardo Borio Dorado, also known as Nene Dorado, was arraigned at the Regional Trial Court Branch 17 in Kidapawan City on Jan. 13 last year, but aside from the petition for bail that had been granted by the court and the pre-trial hearing, Geremia said he felt that the case was hardly moving at all.
“It’s another case of justice delayed, justice denied,” Geremia told the Inquirer.
“The last hearing (last year) was on October 13, the next hearing was on January 26 [this year], but the court postponed the hearing because the arrested suspect was not able to hire a lawyer. You can see how slow the court is. Are these delaying tactics?” he asked.
Aside from Dorado, the other accused includes Jimmy Ato, Robert Ato, Jan Corbala, Nene Dorado, Kaing Labi, Joseph Basol, and Edgar Enoc who are still at large.
Geremia also lamented that the media seemed to have lost interest in the story.
“Unlike before when media people always sought us out on the development of the case, right now, the media seem to have forgotten,” he said.
Two witnesses had executed separate judicial affidavits, pinning down Dorado’s involvement in the case.
In a sworn statement executed before the special investigator of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Jan. 26 last year, Sandique Dapan, a 48-year-old former habal habal driver, said he saw Dorado with a male companion enter the church compound with a gun tucked in his waste in the morning of Oct. 17, 2011, the day of the priest’s murder.
Dapan said he heard three gunbursts and saw Dorado again afterwards, coming out of the church compound with a handgun in his right hand.
He said in his testimony that Dorado merely walked at a normal pace before boarding a waiting white motorcycle outside the church compound and sped away to the direction of Barangay Santo Niño.
In a deposed statement on May 12 last year, Danilo Bayok Bayawan, 46, a Manobo member of the Bagani Special Force which he claimed to be headed by Jan Corbala, testified that it was Dorado and Corbala, also known as Kumander Iring, who planned to kill the priest.
Bayawan also said that the group already planned to ambush the priest on Oct. 15, a Sunday, or two days before the actual killing, but the ambush did not push through because the firearms intended for the purpose were confiscated by the Arakan police.
Bayawan also said in the affidavit that the Bagani Special Force, headed by Corbala in Arakan, was organized by the military in the area.
In Bayawan’s testimony, the group composed of Dorado, Corbala, and other Bagani members including himself had a meeting at 9 a.m. on Oct. 10, 2011, or a week before Tentorio’s killing.
Dorado told the group during the meeting about an order from the military to kill Father Pops because the priest was supporting the New People’s Army. Bayawan said they were also told that an initial amount of P50,000 and a Honda XRM motorcycle had already been prepared for the purpose.
According to Bayawan, Corbala reiterated Dorado’s statement that they needed to kill Father Pops for supporting the NPA. But he said he objected.
“I told them: That’s difficult for me, I will not agree to kill Father Pops because he had helped many indigenous peoples in Arakan,” Bayawan said in his sworn affidavit.
On Oct. 15, a Sunday, Bayawan said Dorado arrived at their outpost telling them to get ready for the ambush of Father Pops, when he passed by their camp after the Mass.
Bayawan also said in the statement that Corbala also told them there were already firearms for the purpose supplied by the military.
“We have to kill Father Pops when he passes by our camp. If we don’t succeed, [we should kill him] anywhere he may be found,” Corbala said, according to Bayawan.
But Bayawan later learned that the ambush did not push through because the two sacks of assorted firearms intended for the purpose were confiscated by the police in Arakan.
Bayawan said that he heard from the local radio on Oct. 17, or two days after the botched plan, that Tentorio was killed inside the church compound.