Manila (AsiaNews) - Maoist rebels have accused and killed a businessman they say was involved in the assassination of Fr Fausto Tentorio, the PIME missionary murdered on 17 October last year in Kidapawan (Mindanao). Sources of AsiaNews say there is "a lot of confusion in the matter".
Today the New People's Army, the armed wing of Filipino Maoist rebels, claimed responsibility for the murder of Patrick Weneger, a Filipino-born businessman of Swiss origin, who was shot to death Wednesday morning.
The extremists claim that he was training paramilitary militias on behalf of the army and that he and the Filipino military were behind Fr Tentorio's assassination.
By contrast, Colonel Leopoldo Galon, spokesman for the military's Eastern Mindanao Command, said that Wegener was actively promoting peace in North Cotabato and that he employed former rebels in his rubber plantation as an alternative to the armed struggle.
For Col Galon, he was shot because he had refused to pay a 'revolutionary' tax rebels extorted from local business people.
Speaking to AsiaNews, Mgr Romulo de la Cruz, bishop of Kidapawan, said that locally Wegener was only known as a businessman. Among residents, there is no reaction to the news of his murder.
"Sadly, he is one the many victims of the fighting between Communists and the army," the prelate said. At "In Kidapawan, people go about their business as usual."
North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Mendoza told the bishop that National Investigation Bureau agents are coming to Kidapawan to re-start the investigation into the missionary's death.
After Fr Tentorio's death, Maoist rebels claimed his legacy to justify their armed struggle on behalf of the poor. On more than one occasion, they said he was a true 'communist', praising his action on behalf of Arakan Valley indigenous people.
The Filipino military and police have tried to use the memory of the missionary as well. In order to gain credibility, they have stressed the results of their investigations.
However, after the arrest of Jimmy Ato, the missionary's alleged killer, the investigation has not progressed, sources told AsiaNews.
Ato continues to proclaim his innocence, claiming that he played only a marginal role in the missionary's death. Four other people involved in the killing are still at large.
"There is still a lot of confusion in the matter," the sources said. "We do not know whom to believe."
Fr Fausto Tentorio is the third PIME missionary to be killed in the Philippines, on the island of Mindanao. In 1985, Fr Tullio Favali was killed in Tulunan, Kidapawan diocese by a group of private armed guards. In 1992, Fr Salvatore Carzedda was killed in Zamboanga. He was involved in interfaith talks with Muslims.
In 2007, Fr Giancarlo Bossi was abducted by breakaway members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front but was released after two months in captivity. In 1998, Fr Luciano Benedetti was also abducted by a Muslim group that released him two months later.