Justice department no 'final say' yet on missionary’s murder-A A +A
Thursday, October 11, 2012
KIDAPAWAN CITY -- The provincial prosecutor in North Cotabato has yet to receive from the Department of Justice (DOJ) its final say on the resolution it submitted three weeks ago on the slay of Italian missionary Fausto Tentorio of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Mission (PIME).
Cotabato provincial prosecutor Jose Agerico de Guzman said they already sent to DOJ central office in Metro Manila the results of their investigation for its approval.
De Guzman denied accusations they are delaying the justice that should have been accorded to Father Tentorio.
He said this case should have been completed early this year if only their office had studied one set of suspects that was presented by the Special Investigation Task Group (STIG), a group tasked to lead the investigation on Tentorio's murder.
Tentorio, parish priest of the Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Arakan, a hinterland town located in the northwest portion of North Cotabato, was shot dead on October 17, 2011.
He was killed inside his parish, witnesses said.
On February this year, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the STIG Tentorio led by Chief Supt. Lester Camba, deputy regional director of the Police Regional Office (PRO) in Southwest Mindanao submitted to the Provincial Prosecutor's Office their investigations on the case.
De Guzman said the task group charged four of the primary suspects in the killing, which included Jimmy Ato as the alleged triggerman and his brother Roberto, and Jose Sampulna and his uncle, Dima Sampulna.
However, de Guzman's office received two months ago another set of documents presented by the group of another PIME missionary, Peter Geremia.
Geremia, citing as basis the account of their witnesses, said that of the suspects presented by the NBI and Tentorio’s task group, only the Ato brothers were included in their charge sheet. The Sampulnas were excluded.
Geremia's group also charged a certain Commander Iring, a leader of the armed Bagani, and four of his men.
According to de Guzman, the presentation of another set of suspects in the killing has placed the provincial prosecution in a "predicament."
"This is because there were some evidences presented by the NBI not found in the group of Father Geremia and vice-versa," he explained.
What they did, he stressed, was to study carefully all the evidences presented and expedited the process.
"I understand that there were several conferences between the Italian consulate and the DOJ office that took place in Manila. So, in order to avoid the DOJ Manila office to always call our attention, we expedited the process and we sent it after we've finished our job. It's no longer in our decision. All the things had been laid down and sent to the DOJ," de Guzman said.
The slow pace of justice has saddened Geremia and his group, the priest said.
"We were told to just wait for the resolution of the prosecutor in North Cotabato. The prosecutor was given a number of days to submit their resolution. But the office has extended its investigation for several days now. It is, as if, they could not come up with a conclusion," said Geremia.
He believed that what was presented by the NBI and the task group to the Prosecutor were only "partial" evidences.
"I believe that this is a result of someone interfering with the witnesses. Also, there are influential people blocking the investigation. I also think that people connected with the masterminds are trying to pollute, to throw in false testimonies in order to force the agency to dismiss the case," said the missionary.
Geremia said that the alleged masterminds include an influential businessman in Arakan town and a former police chief.
"These two, however, were not charged by the NBI and the task force," he said as he challenged the alleged masterminds to execute an affidavit and present it in court.
Geremia has appealed to the "masterminds" that, "if you want to prove you’re innocent or you’re not involved, then, sign a statement with your testimony, and then bring out the truth."
Meantime, Jimmy Ato, one of the primary accused, was already transferred from the custody of the NBI in General Santos City to the Maguindanao Provincial Jail in Cotabato City.
Noe Dasmarinas, agent at the NBI-12, said that they turned over Ato to the provincial jail after they received a commitment order from Judge Bansawan Ibrahim of the Regional Trial Court Branch 13 in Cotabato City on August 30, 2012.
Ato's transfer, however, was not due to his alleged involvement in the killing of Father Tentorio but because of the destructive arson case with homicide filed against him 15 years ago which took place in Upi, Maguindanao.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on October 12, 2012.