Justice for Fr. Pops Tentorio
It has been two years since the killing of Italian priest Fausto “Pops” Tentorio of the Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions (PIME). To remember Father Pops’ martyrdom, Auckland Philippines Solidarity and church leaders in New Zealand, gathered at St John’s Presbyterian Church and lighted candles to reiterate anew their call for justice for Father Pops.
A fellow PIME missionary, Fr. Peter Geremiah, noted: “During the time of Cory Aquino the killers of Fr. Tullio Favali were sentenced to life imprisonment even though their leader, commander Bukay Manero, was the most famous asset of the military during martial law…. [U]nder Cory’s son who is president now, is justice possible for Pops and other victims of extrajudicial killings?”
Witnesses in North Cotabato, including a former Bagani force member, claim the paramilitary group is responsible for the killing. There are also allegations the Armed Forces of the Philippines previously worked with the Bagani force. As we have seen in other countries such as Colombia and Northern Ireland, state collusion with paramilitary groups has led to serious human rights violations.
Rev. Prince Devanandan of the NZ Methodist Church noted during the memorial gathering: “We live today in a world where money has become more important than human life. The military (forces) in the Philippines and many countries controlled by the multinationals are only taught to kill those who resist injustice, but not taught to respect human life and dignity.”
Father Pops provided services for poor indigenous communities in North Cotabato, Mindanao, and also campaigned for an end to the forced displacement of communities by large mining companies and to human rights abuses by paramilitary groups; and for the fair distribution of land.
In recent years other progressive church people have been murdered for taking a stand for the rights of the people. In 2006, after taking an active stand in support of the striking sugar workers in Hacienda Luisita, which is owned by the Cojuangco-Aquino family, the Most Rev. Alberto Ramento, bishop of the Philippine Independent Church, was murdered. Assassins broke into the rectory where he was staying in the Parish of San Sebastian, Tarlac City. After waking him from sleep, the assassins fatally stabbed him.
The best way to honor Father Pops and his great legacy of social work in Mindanao, is to bring to justice all those responsible for the extrajudicial killings of people’s advocates. We call on President Aquino, as AFP commander in chief, to bring to justice all those in security services who are responsible for extrajudicial killings, and to dismantle all paramilitary groups, such as the Bagani force.
—CAMERON WALKER, spokesperson,
Auckland Philippines Solidarity,
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