Three years on, Philippine police no closer to finding Fr Fausto Tentorio's killer
The murder of an Italian priest in the southern Philippine province of North Cotabato three years ago shows no sign of being solved any time soon, his colleagues say.
An unidentified gunman shot and killed Fausto "Fr Pops" Tentorio, a member of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), in the compound of the Our Mother of Perpetual Help parish church in the town of Arakan on October 17, 2011.
"We are about to lose our hopes in this government and its concerned agencies in granting justice for Fr Pops," said fellow PIME member Fr Peter Geremia, noting that three years after the killing there is still no case filed in court and the incident is "still under investigation”.
Geremia told ucanews.com at the weekend that an investigative body created by the government to look into alleged extra-judicial killings is yet to prove its worth.
In 2012, Philippine President Benigno Aquino ordered the creation of the Special Investigating Team for Unsolved Cases, to hasten probes into cases of torture, enforced disappearances, and extra-judicial killings, including the murder of Tentorio.
But Geremia said the investigation into Tentorio’s killing was flawed, noting the retraction of statements by alleged suspects.
Lawyer Gregorio Andolana, who represents Kidapawan diocese, admitted that the absence of eyewitnesses has been a factor in the lack of progress in the investigation.
"There were no eyewitnesses in the killing of Fr Pops, not even one," Andolana told ucanews.com.
Last year, a member of a paramilitary force admitted that his group was behind Tentorio’s killing.
The group was allegedly established and armed by the military to pursue communist insurgents, a claim that has been repeatedly denied by the Defense Department.
The militiaman told a congressional inquiry that the military ordered the killing of the priest. He later retracted his statement.
Lt Nasrula Sema, head of the civil military operations office of the Army's 57th Infantry Battalion, said the allegations were fabricated to malign the credibility of the military.
Geremia said government investigators assured him during a meeting on October 13 that the investigation into the killing of Tentorio would be over by December.
"We will wait and see in December," the priest said.
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