A WEEK before Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio’s fifth year death anniversary, hundreds of students converged at the Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU) to reiterate their call for justice for his death and commemorate the legacy he left through staging a talk show-forum on his advocacy.
Ricky Balilid, one of the scholars of Fr. Fausto “Pops” Foundation and now a volunteer teacher for his fellow Lumads, thanked Fr. Pops, an Italian missionary who helped the Indigenous People (IPs) to attain a sustainable agriculture, environmental protection, peace, justice and equal access to healthcare and education in far-flung areas that are not reached by government services.
Fr. Tentorio was murdered in Arakan Valley, North Cotabato on October 17, 2011 and had earned international attention especially on the plight of Lumads who were neglected by the government.
Tentorio served the IPs in Mindanao since 1978 and was the head of the Tribal Filipinos Apostolate of the Diocese of Kidapawan until he died.
The priest was shot dead by an unidentified riding gunmen allegedly belonging to a paramilitary group. Until now, justice has not yet been served.
“The purpose why we are here today is to celebrate the death anniversary of Fr. Pops. His memories will never be forgotten especially for the teachers who used to be scholars under his foundation,” Balilid told SunStar Davao.
The teachers, including Balilid, have continued the advocacy of Fr. Pops by practicing their course through educating the young Lumads.
Balilid said that Fr. Pops is their inspiration as they became more motivated to strengthen his goals in serving the IP community to alleviate their status.
Balili remembered that the missionary priest empowered people through community development programs and became steadfast in defending their rights and integrity of the IPs’ ancestral domain.
Balili said Fr. Pops stood on their behalf in resisting various companies who sought to establish plantation and mining, which he considers not beneficial on the part of the IPs as it infringes their rights and means of livelihood.
“We are very thankful to him. This is also our way to show to everyone how Fr. Pops rendered his life for the service and welfare of Lumads,” Balili added.
The foundation established many day care centers in Lumad communities and more than 5,000 benefitted from his scholarship programs in Mindanao.
His scholars are currently now studying at Mindanao Interface Service Foundation Inc. Academy, Community Technical College of Southern Mindanao and Liceo de Davao.
Balilid said they are still staying at the UCCP Haran Compound where they sought refuge after they were prohibited to return to their homes because of the ongoing insurgency problem.
Balilid urged the government to pull out the military troops and paramilitary groups in their communities who allegedly brought chaos and threatened their safety and security.