Wednesday, April 17, 2024

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New Zealanders press for justice for Italian missionary gunned down in Philippines

Remembering the life and martyrdom of Fr. Fausto ‘Pops’ Tentorio, PIME

By Auckland Philippines Solidarity

Two years since the killing of Fr. Fausto ‘Pops’ Tentorio, PIME, Auckland Philippines Solidarity (APS) together with church leaders in New Zealand gathered at St John’s Presbyterian Church to remember the martyrdom and lighted candles for justice for Fr. Pops.

Fr. Pops’ dear friend and fellow PIME missionary Fr. Peter Geremiah noted in a Justice for Pops (JPM) statement, “During the time of Cory Aquino the killers of Fr. Tullio Favali PIME were sentenced to life imprisonment even though their leader, commander Bukay Manero, was the most famous asset of the military during Martial Law who eventually served 23 years in prison… Now under Cory’s son who is president now, is justice possible for Pops and other victims of extra-judicial killings?”

“It is lamentable that top military officers denied any knowledge of the Bagani force during last year’s Congressional hearings into Fr. Pops’ case, despite repeated testimonies of witnesses on the killings and harassment perpetrated by this paramilitary group against the local civilian population over the years,” Cameron Walker, Spokesperson of Auckland Philippines Solidarity (APS) said.

Witnesses in North Cotabato, including a former Bagani force member, have claimed the paramilitary group is responsible for the killing.  Other serious allegations have been made that the Armed Forces have previously worked with the Bagani force.

“As we have seen in other international situations, such as in Colombia and Northern Ireland, state collusion with paramilitary groups has led to serious human rights violations”, noted Walker.

Rev. Prince Devanandan of the NZ Methodist Church noted at the memorial gathering for Fr. Pops, “We live today in a world where money has become more important than human life. The military in the Philippines and many countries controlled by the multinationals are only taught to kill those who resist injustice, but not taught to respect human life and dignity.”

Father Pops provided services for poor indigenous communities in North Cotabato Mindanao and also campaigned for an end to the forced displacement of communities by large mining companies, an end to human rights abuses by paramilitary groups and for the fair distribution of land.

In recent years other progressive church people have been murdered for taking a stand for the rights of the people.  After taking an active stand in support of the striking sugar workers at the Hacienda Luisita, owned by the Cojuangco-Aquino family, the Most Rev. Alberto Ramento, Bishop of the Philippine Independent Church was murdered in 2006.   Assassins broke through the rectory where Bishop Ramento was staying at around 4:00 am of October 03, 2006 in the Parish of San Sebastian, Tarlac City. After waking him from his sleep the assassins fatally stabbed him.

“The best way to honour Father Pops and his great legacy of social work in Mindanao is to bring those responsible for extrajudicial killings of people’s advocates to justice.  We call on President Aquino, as Commander and Chief of the Armed Forces to ensure all those responsible for extrajudicial killings within the security services are brought to justice and paramilitary groups, such as the Bagani force are dismantled.” Walker concluded.

Cameron Walker – [email protected]
Spokesperson, Auckland Philippines Solidarity (APS)

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