Catholic Church elated with arrest of Fr. Tentorio's killer

December 31, 2011 6:03 am 

COTABATO CITY, Dec. 30 – Church officials in North Cotabato and in the Diocese of Kidapawan were elated with the arrest of the prime suspect in the killing of Italian missionary Fausto Tentorio even as they expressed hope the authorities would unmasked and punished the brains behind the murder of the missionary priest.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) arrested suspected gunman Jimmy Ato. But Jimmy's brother Roberto, who reportedly drove the getaway motorbike after the killing last Oct. 17, eluded arrest.

Ato is now in NBI custody in Manila.

“We are grateful to the NBI, the police and the military for the arrest of the suspect,” Fr. Peter Geremiah, PIME, Fr. Tentorio’s colleague.

The NBI has trailed Ato for the past two months in Arakan, North Cotabato after gathering information from witnesses pointing him as the alleged gunman.

The military has claimed that Ato was a gun-for-hire and followed an order from unknown persons to kill the priest because of his strong opposition to the hydro-power plant to be constructed at portions of the Pulangui River in Arakan.

Kidapawan Diocese Bishop Romulo dela Cruz was also elated with the arrest of the gunman and urged authorities to dig deeper into the case to determine who ordered the killing.

Fr. Tentorio had been active in environmental issues in Arakan and had been serving the indigenous peoples living in the mountains of North Cotabato.

Despite threats to his life, Fr. Tentorio continued his mission of helping the oppressed and less fortunate parishioners.

Geremiah said there were other witnesses to the murder but appeared to be reluctant to come out for fear of retaliation from relatives of the suspect.

The spokesman of the Eastern Mindanao Command, Col. Leopoldo Galon, said Ato has initially revealed to interrogators that one reason why Tentorio was killed was his opposition to the construction of a hydro-electric plant from a portion of the Pulangui River that straddles through a strategic hinterland in Arakan.

“The alleged brains of the killing are wealthy landowners in North Cotabato who stand to benefit from the power plant,” Galon said.

Geremiah said he was told that many witnesses were afraid to come out because nobody could guarantee their safety.

He was thinking of recommending to the NBI that these witnesses, other than those already in NBI custody, would be placed under the government's witness protection program. (PNA) RMA/NYP/EOF

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