Arakan villagers mourn death of Fr. Pops | Inquirer News
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Arakan villagers mourn death of Fr. Pops

/ 01:40 AM October 19, 2011

Fr. Fausto Tentorio. Photo from PIME website

ARAKAN, North Cotabato—The small church, some 10 meters away from the garage where a gunman murdered Fr. Fausto Tentorio, was too cramped to accommodate the people who came Monday night to pay their last respects to the Italian missionary.

Tentorio, who spent 32 years working in Mindanao, had just finished his cup of native coffee and was about to head to Kidapawan City when he was assassinated by a gunman wearing a crash helmet.

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Church workers close to the 59-year-old Italian missionary wept as they passed by his coffin at the Mother of Perpetual Help church.

“I’m going to miss him. He is kind and helpful to all of us,” said Rosita Numbrida, who has been working at the church since 2003. She described Father Tentorio as a “true servant who represents the best of humanity.”

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Nelfa Rotante, 30, who came from a remote village here, said one thing she won’t forget about Tentorio was his love for the children.

“He’s so kind and close to the kids. It’s a loss for us but it’s beyond our control,” Rotante said as she stood on a line of town folk towards the coffin.

“To those behind the killing, may God save their souls,” she said.

10 bullet wounds

The wake at the Arakan parish will last for three nights. Tentorio’s remains will then be transferred to the Bishop’s Palace in Kidapawan City.

Tentorio was about to board his vehicle—a Suzuki Jimny, not a pickup truck as earlier reported—at around 7:30 a.m. on Monday to attend a meeting of the clergy in the capital city of Kidapawan when the gunman approached him and fired.

He suffered 10 bullet wounds—six in the waist, three in the chest and one in the head—from a 9mm pistol.

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Chief Superintendent Lester Camba, deputy regional director of the Philippine National Police (PNP), told the Inquirer that investigators were not discounting the possibility that communist rebels were behind the assassination.

Arakan is a known area of the New People’s Army, Camba said, but he could not say why the guerrillas would want the priest dead.

Camba initially cleared mining groups in the killing, saying there were no ongoing mining operations in Arakan.

In 2009, residents and officials of Arakan held a rally opposing the entry of Visayas Ore Phils. Inc., a subsidiary of Nihao Mineral Resources International Inc., which applied for a permit to explore nickel, chromite, cobalt and other minerals in the area.

Task force

On Monday night, the Municipal Peace and Order Council created a task force to “look at all angles” of the killing, according to Arakan Mayor Gerardo Tuble.

Tuble said some 15 minutes before the killing, he had spoken with Tentorio over the phone to discuss their program for the Indigenous People’s month celebration. He said the priest had been “instrumental in changing the lives” of these neglected people.

Police Officer 3 Moises Abril said only five empty shells from a 9mm pistol were recovered from the scene, which he said was “contaminated” after people rushed to the area upon learning of the incident.

Inspector Joyce Birrey, PNP provincial spokesperson, said a witness to the killing had agreed to cooperate to identify the assassin. He did not identify the witness.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) condemned the incident “in the highest possible terms,” saying it  showed the “degeneration” of morality and spirituality in the country.

“This is brutality and savagery that no civilized men or groups could possibly do,” said Muhammad Ameen, chair of the MILF secretariat.  With reports from Williamor Magbanua, Carlo Agamon and Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao

Originally posted: 11:34 pm | Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

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TAGS: Arakan, Crime, Fausto Tentorio, grief, Italian priest, Murder, Philippines
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