On October 17, 2011 Italian activist priest Fausto Tentorio was shot and killed by a gunman inside his parish compound in the town of Arakan, North Cotabato, in Mindanao. A local paramilitary group Bagani (“tribal warriors”), reportedly under military control of the 57th Infantry Battalion, is allegedly responsible for the killing of Father Fausto.
However, despite various sworn testimonies by different witnesses about the involvement of Bagani leader Jan Corbala alias “Kumander Iring” and other suspects as plotters of the killing, they have not been included in the government’s investigation.
Nine months after the killing there is growing criticism that these suspects have been deliberately left out of the case because of their military ties.
Further, none of the four suspects the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has recommended to file charges against have been arrested. There are also numerous grave threats against the witnesses, their families and those who try to pursue the case.
“These are all attempts to hamper an impartial, fair and independent investigation”, criticizes Maike Grabowski, coordinator of the German-based Action Network Human Rights-Philippines (AMP).
“We see with deep concern, that paramilitary groups like the Bagani Group seem to be protected by influential people and therefore above the law“, says Jochen Motte, chairman of the German lobby group.
According to the eight member organizations of the AMP the concerned agencies, like the Department of Justice, the responsible government prosecutors and the NBI have to show more sincerity and determination towards the conviction of the perpetrators of gross human rights violations and the masterminds in the back, regardless of their political protection or affiliation. This will be the only chance to break through the climate of impunity and help the citizens of the Philippines to regain trust in the rule of law.
The AMP is therefore calling on the Philippine government to:
– Order all government agencies to expand and complete the investigation, taking into account the alleged involvement of the Bagani group and the 57th Infantry Battalion officers with command responsibility during the time of the killing.
– Disarm the Bagani or Alamara armed groups and all other paramilitary groups in the country
– Provide adequate security for witnesses and their families
– Investigate all threats against witnesses, their families and supporters of the “Fr. Fausto “Pops” Movement”
– Direct the NBI to investigate those who pressured one witness to give a false statement.