Solon tagged as priest killers’ protector
DAVAO CITY—North Cotabato Rep. Nancy Catamco, a member of the ruling Liberal Party (LP), has been accused of taking custody of and protecting some of the suspects in the 2011 murder of Italian priest Fr. Fausto Tentorio, a colleague of the slain missionary said.
Speaking at a hearing conducted by the House of Representative’s committee on human rights here on Thursday, Italian missionary Fr. Peter Geremia said some suspects in the Tentorio murder case still roam freely and are being protected by Catamco while witnesses feel “imprisoned” under the government’s witness protection program.
He did not identify who the suspects getting protection are but based on facts of the case, government prosecutors have charged several men, including siblings Roberto and Jimmy Ato, Jose Sultan Sampulna, and Dima Maligudan Sampulna, with Tentorio’s murder.
Geremia, who represented Tentorio’s family and the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, raised this as he testified how the investigation on Tentorio’s murder dragged for years.
“Our witnesses are like prisoners in the safe house of the witness protection program,” he said.
“They are so tired of waiting like prisoners, while the accused are roaming around free with the protection of Rep. Nancy Catamco,” Geremia said.
Catamco did not comment on Geremia’s complaint when the Inquirer sought her reaction.
In a text message, she said she has “yet to verify if the statement was really made, as an official and sworn statement of Father Geremia before the human rights committee.”
Catamco said unless she had verified Geremia’s statement, she will “exercise restraint to make a comment.”
“I shall make my response as soon as I have verified the statement,” she said, adding that “we will answer at the right forum.”
Geremia said another suspect, Jan Corbala, whom witnesses had earlier tagged as among those behind Tentorio’s murder, also continues to roam around unmolested.
Corbala was the alleged leader of the paramilitary group, Bagani, who still roams around Arakan and Bukidnon areas, he said.
Brig. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, an Army commander, said Corbala was a former member of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit but was terminated in 2006.
Madrigal said the military was also hunting down Corbala for crimes that Madrigal did not specify.
Geremia also told the hearing, held at a hotel here, that Tentorio must have been killed because of his work with ‘lumad’ groups opposed to the entry of mining and plantations in Arakan, North Cotabato.
He said Tentorio’s killing could also be the work of “some high-level politicians displeased” by Tentorio.
Tentorio, then Arakan parish priest, was about to board his vehicle on his way to Kidapawan City for a meeting when he was shot in the morning of Oct. 17, 2011. He was 59. Germelina Lacorte with a report from Allan Nawal, Inquirer Mindanao
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