Fr Tentorio's killers remains at large in Philippines
Father Peter Geremia (left) and lawyer Gregorio Andolana (photo by Keith Bacongco)
Justice for murdered Italian missionary priest Fausto Tentorio remains elusive, two years after his assassination in the southern Philippine province of North Cotabato.
No case has been filed in court against the suspects and witnesses have retracted their testimonies.
Father Peter Geremia, Tentorio's colleague in the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, said it would be "like a miracle" if justice would be achieved in his lifetime.
“If that were to happen, I would be grateful. But if it doesn’t come out completely in my time, maybe it will come out eventually,” the 75-year old Italian missionary told ucanews.com.
The priest admitted his frustrations while trying to build the case against government militiamen who were suspected of involvement in the killing of the 59-year-old Tentorio on October 17, 2011, outside his parish church in Arakan town.
A member of the Bagani Special Force, a paramilitary force, admitted last November that his group was behind Tentorio’s killing.
The group was allegedly set up and armed by the military to pursue communist insurgents, a claim that has been repeatedly denied by the defense department.
The order to kill Fr Tentorio was "clear," the militiaman told the inquiry.
The priest had to die because "the military wants him killed because he is a supporter of the New People’s Army [NPA]," the militiaman told a congressional inquiry last year.
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.
The militiaman’s admission was also contained in a signed confession submitted to the inquiry.
Geremia, who assumed the pastoral work of Tentorio in Arakan, has always believed that the military was behind the killing, an allegation that the military has denied.
He said that those who have been implicated in the crime, particularly the government militiamen, are "untouchables".
Unlike the case of another slain Italian missionary, Tulio Favali, in the 1980s, the progress of Tentorio’s case has been very slow.
Geremia said Favali's killers were sentenced in little more than two years after the killing on April 11, 1985. In the case of Tentorio, two years have passed and no case has been filed in court.
The priest said somebody is "blocking or manipulating" the investigation.
Lawyer Gregorio Andolana, counsel of the Kidapawan diocese, said the missionaries feel "like they are alone" in pursuing justice for Tentorio.
"In Favali's case, we could feel the eagerness of the people. Now, it seems that Father Peter [Geremia] is the only one who is actively fighting for justice," Andolana told ucanews.com.
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