Press Statement, Chicago, Illinois, USA – In the early morning of October 17 while on his way to a clergy meeting, Fr. Fausto Tentorio, an Italian Roman Catholic missionary serving the Philippines for 32 years was killed by an unidentified assassin. The gunman shot him several times on his chest and head.
Fr. Tentorio was the parish priest of the Mother of Perpetual Help Parish in Arakan Town, North Cotabato, Mindanao. He was the Director of the Diocesan Program for Indigenous People and a very active member of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines.
Bishop Valentin Lorejo IFI, former chairperson of KARAPATAN Northern Mindanao, a human rights alliance in the Philippines and currently the Pastor of IFI Good Shepherd Congregation in Chicago believes that Fr. Tentorio’s advocacy for the rights of the indigenous people may have caused him his life.
Bishop Eliezer Pascua also from Chicago and former Secretary General of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines added that “Fr. Pops” as Fr. Tentorio was fondly called by his parishioners was a staunched defender of the rights of the indigenous people to preserve their ancestral land and as such may have earned the ire of big business and foreign mining companies in Mindanao.
The killing of Fr. Tentorio is very alarming said Fr. Steve de Leon SVD, Pastor of the Star of the Sea Catholic Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia and Spiritual Adviser of Migrant Heritage Commission in Washington DC. He added that the killing of the Italian priest is part of the ongoing extra judicial killing of human rights advocates and activists in the Philippines.
Meanwhile Fr. Primitivo Racimo IFI, scholar and historian of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente and currently the Pastor of St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Chicago affirmed Fr. de Leon’s concern and said that the killing of Fr. Tentorio is the 54th incident of extra judicial killing under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III. He also noted that there are more than 900 victims of extra judicial killings in the Philippines since the year 2001.
Furthermore Fr. Benjamin Alforque MSC, Resident Priest of St. Catherine of Alexandria Catholic Church in the Diocese of San Bernardino, California and Chairman of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns-NAFCON and co-Chairperson of the National Ecumenical Forum for Filipino Concerns-NEFFC declared that genuine and lasting peace will never be attained in Mindanao nor the whole of the Philippines as long as respect for human rights and human dignity is absent and as long as disenfranchisement of indigenous communities, landlessness, joblessness, and state terrorism continue.
Filipinos and Filipino-Americans in the United States joined hands in condemning the killing and demand that President Aquino ensures a speedy investigation and prosecution of the culprit, among them were the following:
Very Reverend Dennis Legaspi VF, Pastor of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church, Diocese of San Bernardino, California; Sr. Elizabeth Pedernal of the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo-Scalabrini in Melrose Park, Illinois; Ms. Naida Castro of the Filipino Catholic Ministry of the Diocese of San Bernardino, California; Prof. Ligaya Lindio-McGovern PhD of the Department of Sociology, History and Political Science of the Indiana University- Kokomo in Indiana; Fr. Justino Estoque, Pastor of the Holy Family Catholic Church in Dulac, Louisiana; Fr. Sancho Garrote, Resident Priest of St. Brendan Catholic Church in Bronx, New York; and Reverend Dennis Duhaylungsod, clergy of the Northern California and Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ in the US to mention a few.
To conclude Rocco Allegretti and Nerissa Allegretti acting secretariat of the Advocates for Human Rights in the Philippines (AHRP) and co-coordinators of the US nucleus of the Lay Scalabrinian Missionary Movement enjoins all peace loving and concern citizens to pray for: the family of Fr. Fausto Tentorio; his congregation, the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions or the Pontificum Institutum pro Missionibus Exteris (PIME); his Bishop, the Most Reverend Romulo Tolentino de la Cruz; the lay and clergy of the Diocese of Kidapawan, the indigenous people of Mindanao and the Filipino people that they may remain firm and steadfast in these trying times. #
Nerissa N. Allegretti, [email protected]