November 8, 2014
Vice President Jejomar Binay seeks to meet with representatives of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. Why? He’ll explain his side in the raging controversy over Makati pork. Fine.
While at it, why doesn’t the gentleman tell the prelates why nothing is moving in the case of Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio, the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions priest who was murdered in the Arakan Valley of North Cotabato in 2011?
Read these excerpts from “Inter Nos,” pages 62 and 63, bulletin of the University of Santo Tomas (volume 26, 2014). Iris Ann Augustine-Capus wrote:
“If Fr. Fausto Tentorio were alive, we would not be holding this tribute. He would shy from any recognition, despite his life of service. What would have brought an Italian who hails from another continent into a far-flung area in the island of Mindanao?
“Ordained a priest in 1977 at the age of 25, he initially worked in Zamboanga for two years during which he acclimatized himself to the Filipino culture. In 1980 he was assigned to Kidapawan as mission administrator in the parish of Columbio, a tri-people setting of Christians, Muslims and indigenous tribes. Transferred to Arakan, North Cotabato. In 1990 he began working full time with the the area’s Manobos.
“He got government to recognize their rights to free, prior and informed consent in relation to projects and their remaining ancestral lands. He helped in forming agricultural cooperatives and conducting health education.
“He also built more than 80 learning centers for the indigenous people, and co-journeyed with the people in their quest for abundant life and served as their strong advocate for justice and peace. He has earned the respect and admiration of the locals and peers, and earned him the moniker ‘Tay Pops.’
“On 17 October 2011 at about 7:30 in the morning inside the compound of the Mother of Perpetual Help Parish in Arakan Valley, North Cotabato Province, Fr. Tentorio, 59 years old, was shot ten times. He was the first victim of extrajudicial killing from the Roman Catholic Church and foreigner under the Aquino Administration.
“He was brought to Antipas Medical Specialists Hospital but he was declared dead on arrival. Arakan Councilor Leonardo Reovoca narrated that he saw a person wearing a helmet run from the Parish compound garage towards the main road then ride off with another suspect waiting on a blue XRM motorcycle. However, he could not identify the assassin.
“He testified there were two army soldiers wearing complete uniform and in full battle gear, believed to be members of 5th Special Forces of the Philippine Army, who were near the vicinity of the incident. Yet, none of them responded. During that day there was an Oplan Bayanihan activity conducted by the military inside the school as the military vehicle was parked in its premises.
“In 2007 while Fr. Pops was facilitating a dental mission held in the parish, a number of military men from the 57th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army raided a compound and alleged that there were firearms hidden in the office of the parish.
“In October 2003, Fr. Pops survived a manhunt by a paramilitary group called ‘Bagani,’ which was allegedly organized by the 73rd Infantry Battalion to fight the New People’s Army, when he went to a remote village in Kitaotao, Bukidnon, where [he] did missionary work. The leaders of the Bagani are also known in facilitating the encroachment of ‘developmental projects’ such as agribusiness, monocrop plantations and mining in ancestral domains. This was the first attempt against his life as a foreign missionary.
“Since the killing of Fr. Tentorio the Justice for Pops Movement continues its pursuit of justice for Pops and other similar victims in the court of law. The official inquiry of the National Bureau of Investigation was stopped in February 2012 when the NBI filed charges against four suspects.
“On the first anniversary of Fr. Pops’ death many voices cried out for justice both in the streets and in the media. Then on Nov. 8 and 9, 2012, the Commission on Human Rights held a public hearing in Davao on several extrajudicial killings (EJK) in Mindanao, including Pops’ case. Witnesses repeated their testimonies but the top military officers claimed that the Bagani did not exist. There was complete denial and refusal to cooperate.
“The public inquiry by the CHR and the new guidelines of AO 35 raised expectations that finally the moment of truth will come for the Tentorio case. But the CHR inquiry did not give any official findings and recommendations and, apparently, the new guidelines are not yet implemented. Is this another set of promises with no results?
“During the time of President Corazon Aquino, the killers of Fr. Tullio Favali of PIME were sentenced to life imprisonment even though their leader, Commander Bukay Manero, was the most famous asset of the military during martial law. He eventually served 23 years in prison, then he came to the grave of Fr. Tullio and asked for forgiveness. Now, under Cory’s son, who is President now, is justice possible for Pops and other EJK victims?
“In his last will, Fr. Pops quoted Prophet Micah (6:8): ‘Oh mortals, you were told what is good, what God requires of you: Do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.’ The Mindanao Daily Mirror, on Nov. 9, 2012, reported: ‘Militia man surfaces as witness in Fr. Pops’ case.’”
No case has been filed in court to date. And nothing in Vice President Binay’s dodging and weaving will bring justice any closer to Father Pops./Juan L. Mercado/E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org