Philippines probes threat to slain Italian priest
MANILA—Philippine police said Tuesday they were investigating whether there was any connection between the murder of an Italian Roman Catholic priest and a death threat made against him two years ago.
Investigators are trying to determine whether the 2009 incident was linked to the killing of Fausto Tentorio in the southern Philippines on Monday, said Chief Superintendent Lester Camba, head of a police team handling the murder case.
“We have not established a possible angle, but we backtracked at previous probable threats and there was an incident in 2009 that Father Fausto had reported to the police,” Camba told reporters in a telephone conference call.
“There was an armed group that entered the compound (of the priest’s mission house) but left when the police arrived. They were not identified,” Camba said.
Tentorio, 59, had served for the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) order since 1978 on Mindanao, a vast island home to Muslim separatists, political warlords and other armed groups.
“There was a threat to his life, that they (those who issued the threat) would be waiting for him if he would visit a certain village,” Camba said.
Police said an unknown gunman shot Tentorio eight times at his PIME parish in the remote farming town of Arakan on Monday as he got into his car.
The assailant escaped and police did not know why Tentorio was killed, but his colleagues told AFP they suspected his death was linked to his efforts to help local tribes and other disadvantaged people in the area.
Tentorio was particularly active helping the Manobo tribe, whose ancestors used to control vast tracts of land in Arakan but have have been pushed to the fringes by settlers from other parts of the country.
Tentorio was the third PIME missionary to have been killed since 1985 on Mindanao, while two other members of the order were also kidnapped there but were later freed unharmed, according to the order.
The Philippines is a mainly Catholic country but it has a Muslim minority population that regards Mindanao as its ancestral homeland, and a separatist insurgency there has claimed more than 150,000 lives since the 1970s.
Harder-line Islamic militants linked to Al-Qaeda, communist rebels and other armed groups also operate on Mindanao, while political warlords are infamous for having their own private armies.
Founded in 1926, Vatican-backed PIME has missionaries in 17 countries, mainly in areas where there are conflicts and political turmoil, according to its website.