12/29/2017, 13.55
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Mindanao, two senior army officers among accused for murder of Fr. Tentorio

At least 20 soldiers belonging to the 57th battalion stationed in Makilala reportedly planned the killing. Fausto was disliked by the army, businessmen and local politicians for his activity in favor of the tribals against the exploitation of the mines.

Manila (AsiaNews) – There has been a breakthrough in the investigation of the murder of the PIME missionary Fr. Fausto Tentorio, which occurred six years ago on the island of Mindanao. The Department of Justice (Doj) has filed a new complaint for murder against two army officers and many others, including two members of the Manobo tribe identified by parliamentarian Nancy Catamco, district representative of the North Cotabato.

Fausto Tentorio (photo), a 59-year-old priest for over 32 years in the Philippines, was killed on the morning of 17 October 2011, as he was preparing to leave the parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Arakan, North Cotabato, for a meeting of the diocesan clergy at Kidapawan.

Because of his activity in favor of the Manobo tribals threatened by the exploitation of the mines, Fr. Tentorio was held in suspicion by the army. According to the military, he had ties with the Maoist rebels of the New People's Army (NPA), who more than once had praised his work. In 2003, members of the armed forces attempted to kill him while on one of his visits to the tribes of the Iraqan Valley, in Kitaotao. On that occasion, the tribals made him a human shield, saving his life.

Describing it as "pure and simple homicide", last December 27, deputy prosecutor Peter Ong said that the alleged affiliation of Tentorio with the leftist groups "is not relevant" in the new investigation conducted on the killing of the priest. Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II had previously ordered the NGO to re-examine the case, as the indictment of several people implicated in the murder was stalled. "We hope to have somehow given justice to Father Tentorio," Ong told journalists.

The deputy prosecutor reports that at least 20 soldiers belonging to the 57th army battalion stationed in the city of Makilala, in the province of North Cotabato, took part in the planning of the killing of Fr. Tentorio. He was then killed by a single murderer inside the parish complex that escaped with an accomplice aboard a motorcycle. The NPA and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had previously supported accusations by local residents that businessmen and military had orchestrated the murder of Fr. Tentorio. The suspects also fell on a politician and the local police chief. "You have no reason to kill a person who is not a fighter. It is a simple homicide ", emphasized Ong. "It has nothing to do with politics. His murder has nothing to do with the NPA. It's a simple homicide ".

The people reported by the Justice Department are: Army Colonel Joven Gonzales; Major Mark Espiritu; Jimmy Ato, material executor of the murder, and his brother Robert Ato; Jan Corbala; Nene Durado; Kaing Labi; Joseph Basol; Edgar Enoc; Romulo Tapgos ,; William Buenaflor and a certain alias Katong. It is suspected that the Ato brothers were members of a paramilitary group called "Bagani", used by government troops to fight the Maoists. Ong clarifies, however, that the allegations must be verified through a regular preliminary investigation.

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