Fr. Tentorio murder: trial blocked for a year, justice denied
The only suspect on trial for the missionary's killing in 2011 says he cannot pay for a lawyer. So the court hearing was postponed once again, while the other accused are all still at large. Fr Jeremiah: 'The delaying tactic is evident. And the lack of media attention favours impunity'.
Manila (AsiaNews) - After more than 11 years the road to justice for the murder of PIME missionary Fr Fausto Tentorio, killed in Mindanao in October 2011, is still being hampered and indeed denied.
This is the denunciation contained in the columns of the National Inquirer, the best known Philippine newspaper, by Fr Peter Geremia, a confrere and friend of Fr Tentorio, who from Kidapawan continues to fight for the truth about that death.
The Italian missionary was killed by a gunman wearing a motorbike helmet while he was in the compound of the Church of the Mother of Perpetual Help, Arakan parish in North Cotabato province in the southern Philippines.
At the time of his death, he had spent more than 39 years working in remote and impoverished mountain communities, particularly in defence of the rights of the indigenous Manobo people of Arakan.
A little over a year ago - in December 2021 - the investigation seemed to have reached a turning point with the arrest of Ricardo Borio Dorado, also known as Nene Dorado, who a witness stated in a deposition that he saw entering the church compound armed that morning.
Dorado is one of the seven persons against whom Kidapawan Judge Arvin Sadiri Balagot had already issued an arrest warrant for the murder of Fr Tentorio on 30 April 2019, based on the accounts of some witnesses who had pointed to Dorado and his Bagani militia as the instigators and perpetrators of the murder, in the early weeks after the missionary's killing. But until December 2021, he had been able to move around the area undisturbed, like all the other accused.
Summoned to the Regional Trial Court Branch 17 in Kidapawan, Dorado had been granted bail on 13 January 2022. But after the preliminary hearing, the trial had stalled again.
"It is another case of justice delayed, justice denied," Fr Jeremiah commented to the Inquirer. "The last hearing was held on 13 October, the next one was set for 26 January, but the court postponed it because the suspect says he is unable to hire a lawyer. The delays are obvious. Are these not delaying tactics?".
Along with Dorado, the other accused are Jimmy Ato, Robert Ato, Jan Corbala, Kaing Labi, Joseph Basol and Edgar Enoc: all are still at large.
Fr Jeremiah also claims that the media's lack of interest in the case seems to favour impunity. "They all seem to have forgotten about it," he denounced. Hence the hope that a renewed interest might lead to a more speedy trial.
Fr. Tentorio was the third PIME missionary to die in a few years in the Philippines. On 11 April 1985, also in Mindanao, Fr Tulio Favali who was brutally murdered by Norberto Manero, leader of a local fanatical group. Fr Salvatore Carzedda was murdered in an Islamist ambush in Zamboanga City in 1992.