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Militiamen 'behind Italian priest's killing'

Breakthrough in hunt for Fr. Tentorio's assassins

  • Kerima Bulan T. Navales, Davao City
  • Philippines
  • November 9, 2012
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A member of a paramilitary force today admitted his group was behind the killing of an Italian priest last year.

Father Fausto "Pops" Tentorio was shot dead in Arakan, North Cotabato province, on October 17 2011.

The militiaman, who was not named for security reasons, told a congressional inquiry in Davao City today that members of the Bagani Special Force had killed the priest.

The group was allegedly set up and armed by the military to pursue communist insurgents, a claim that has been denied by the Defense Ministry.

The order to kill Fr. Tentorio was "clear," the militiaman told the inquiry.

The order allegedly came from the head of the militia Jan Corbala and the plot was hatched on October 15,  two days before Fr. Tentorio was gunned down.

The plan was to ambush the priest while on his way home to Arakan from the village of Dalag, the militiaman said.

The priest had to die because "the military wants him killed because he is a supporter of the New People’s Army," the militiaman quoted Corbala allegedly telling the group.

The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines that has been waging a four-decade guerrilla war in the country.

While other members of the militia group allegedly agreed to the plan, the inquiry witness said he objected to it because the Italian priest had helped indigenous peoples and farmers in the area.

He said the ambush did not take place because the guns to be used were discovered by the police.

Tentorio was later killed in his church compound on October 17. He was shot eight times in the chest.

The militiaman’s admission was also contained in a signed confession submitted to the inquiry.

Representative Neri Colmenares, a member of the congressional inquiry, called for the immediate arrest of Bagani Special Force members.

Father Peter Geremia, another Italian priest who worked with Tentorio, said he hopes the inquiry will eventually lead to the delivery of justice.

He said although the inquiry is not a court of law, it should demand that relevant agencies work "and give us want we want, and that is justice."

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