Manila (AsiaNews) - A member of a paramilitary force admitted today that his group was behind the murder of Father Fausto "Pops" Tentorio, an Italian missionary with the Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions (PIME) who was shot to death in Arakan, North Cotabato province, on 17 October 2011. The Bagani Special Force is fighting the New People's Army (NPA), a Maoist movement.
PIME regional superior Fr Giovanni Re confirmed the information carried by Filipino papers, but warned that "investigations are still underway and the reliability of witnesses must still be determined."
For its part, the Filipino military has denied any involvement in the clergyman's murder. However, they disliked him Fr Tentorio because he worked on behalf of Manobo tribal groups threatened by mining activities.
According to the military, he had links with the NPA who on several occasions praised his work. Nevertheless, the clergyman also spoke out against crimes committed by the Maoists who used the problems of tribal peoples to wage an ideological struggle against the military and the government.
Back in December, police arrested the priest's alleged murderers, Jimmi Ato and Robert Ato, but so far nothing is know about who sent them and why.
Nicknamed 'Pops,' the missionary had been in the Philippines for 32 years. When his funeral was held on 25 October 2011, thousands of people came from all over Mindanao, some travelling long distances, to say goodbye to the slain clergyman.
Fr Tentorio is the third PIME clergyman to be killed in the Philippines after Frs Tullio Favali and Salvatore Carzedda were assassinated in 1985 and 1992 respectively. (S.C.)