PRESS STATEMENT – It is a great tragedy and irony that during the indigenous peoples month of October, a great advocate of the Lumads has been ruthlessly shot and killed.
Fr. Fausto Tentorio, PIME, Italian priest and missionary to the lumad tribes of Arakan Valley, died of multiple gunshot wounds this morning, October 17, as he was preparing to go to a clergy meeting in Kidapawan City. Initial reports of his death said the assailant is a helmet-wearing, motorcycle-riding gunman, typical of the military death squads that tainted the Arroyo regime. Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad (KALUMARAN) holds responsible the Oplan Bayanihan of President Aquino as the motivating force behind Fr. Tentorio’s death. Fr. Pops, as he was fondly called, had criticized the military for its operations in the community he embraced, and pronounced the “peace and development” programs in Arakan Valley as contrary to the aspirations of the people.
Fr. Pops worked with local indigenous peoples organizations to build a school for Lumad youth in Arakan Valley and develop the local economy through sustainable agriculture. Tinananon-Kulamanon Lumadnong Panaghiusa (TIKULPA), a local organization which he and his staff have supported through capacity building programs, has stood firm against agri-business plantations and other corporate business interests in the area. His work has brought ire among local tribal dealers and government officials who want to reap profits from the ancestral domain of the Manobo and other tribes in the area. In 2003, Fr. Pops was hunted down by Bagani paramilitaries in Kitaotao, Bukidnon, but he was shielded by the community and the threat was deterred.
The death of Fr. Pops is a continuation of the reign of terror in Lumad communities that began under the Marcos regime and has persisted through subsequent presidencies. Like his mother, Noynoy Aquino is pursuing a low-intensity conflict strategy against those individuals and communities that work for alternative, community-centered forms of development preventing the entrance of foreign capital and big business in ancestral domain areas and rural communities. Fr. Pops death was preceded this year by the deaths of Lumad Higaonon leader Datu Lapugotan and his nephew Solte San-ogan in Esperanza, Agusan del Sur, as well as the deaths of Jimmy Arion, Nicomedes de la Peña, Sr., Nicomedes de la Peña, Jr., and Ruben Gatong in San Fernando, Bukidnon. Lumad paramilitary groups formed and supported by the Armed Forces of the Philippines are responsible for their deaths.
KALUMARAN condemns the killing of Fr. Fausto Tentorio and holds the Aquino regime accountable for this crime. The reign of impunity must come to an end!
Reference: Monico Cayog, Chairperson 09995699612
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