Suspect in priest's killing denies accusation

January 1, 2012 2:41 am 

KIDAPAWAN CITY, Dec. 31 -– Fearing for his life and family, the brother of the primary suspect in the killing of an Italian missionary in North Cotabato has sought help from a local official in the province.

Roberto Ato, a Teduray native from North Upi, Maguindanao, said he was surprised when he learned he was being pursued by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in his village because of his alleged involvement in Father Fausto Tentorio’s death.

“That was a big lie. I was not pursued. Also, contrary to reports, I didn’t have an armed engagement with any of the NBI agents that raided the house of my brother, Jimmy, last December 29,” Roberto told police officers during a briefing held Friday night at the office of Cotabato 2nd District Rep. Nancy Catamco.

Roberto said two days before the arrest of his brother at Sitio Iwak-Iwak in Barangay Kulaman Valley in Arakan town, a former village official introduced to their clan two persons who identified themselves as miners that wanted to do mining in their area.

“These two persons were treated well. In fact, they stayed in my brother’s house. We did not expect they would treat us this way. When my brother was arrested, he asked why? But they refused to answer him,” recounted Roberto.

It was only through media reports that Roberto knew his brother was flown in from Cagayan de Oro City to Manila and was presented to the public as Tentorio’s killer. He also learned later that those persons that stayed in their village were actually NBI agents.

Reports from NBI-12 said Jimmy was arrested at around 5:30 a.m. on December 29 and was immediately brought to Cagayan de Oro City. At 10 a.m. on that day, he boarded a plane bound for Manila, along with the arresting officers. At 2 p.m., Justice Secretary Leila De Lima had a press briefing where she introduced Jimmy as the priest’s killer.

During the briefing in her office Friday night, Catamco told Supt. Raul Supiter, deputy provincial police director in North Cotabato, she does not have any plan to block any police operation that would solve the killing of the Italian missionary. However, it should follow due process, she said.

“I would not allow that authorities just pick up anybody and detain him without due process. I was told that there is yet no warrant for the arrest of Jimmy and Roberto as regards the killing of Father Tentorio,” said Catamco.

Supiter showed Catamco a warrant for the arrest of Jimmy for a crime he committed when he was 16 years old. The crime happened in his hometown in North Upi, Maguindanao.

According to the warrant issued in August 1995 by the Regional Trial Court Branch 13 in Cotabato City, Jimmy is accused of disruptive arson with homicide.

“So you see? The court order showed that Jimmy was arrested for arson and not because of his alleged involvement in the priest’s killing,” said Catamco.

The congresswoman said she would keep in her custody Roberto unless the authorities present to her the warrant.

“For the meantime, I tasked my legal counsel to be his lawyer. He must be represented by a lawyer in any investigation that would take place,” she said. (PNA)

scs/LAM/NYP/Malu C Manar/rsm

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