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Witnesses to Italian priest’s murder getting death threats

MANILA (Agencies) : In the same manner as witnesses to the Maguindanao Massacre are being picked off one by one, witnesses to the murder of the Italian missionary priest, Father Fausto Tentorio, have been receiving death threats, Father Peter Jeremiah, from the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, told CBCP News.

He explained on Radyo Veritas that some people listed as suspects for the murder of Father Tentorio have been sending threats to witnesses.

“There’s a reaction from some of the accused. They are threatening the witnesses and their families and the community,” the Italian confrère of Father Tentorio said.

Father Jeremiah is a known confidant of Father Tentorio, a staunch anti-mining advocate, who was gunned down inside his parish church compound in Arakan Valley, North Cotabato, on October 11 last year.

Father Jeremiah refused to identify the suspects he accused of sending the death threats, but he questioned why they would send death threats instead of cooperating with the authorities in order to clear their names.

“They should tell what they know about the actual incident and the one behind the crime… even just partial participation,” he said. “We are really seeking justice.”

CBCP News reported that last December, Jimmy Ato, one of the primary suspects, was arrested, but the investigations to date remain at a standstill.

Ato pleaded not guilty, noting that he only had a marginal role in the death of the missionary and that the other four people involved in the killing are still at large.

Father Tentorio is the third missionary Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions to be killed in The Philippines.

On 15 April 1985, Father Tullio Favali was shot dead by a paramilitary group in Tulunan, North Cotabato.

On 20 March 1992, two men on a motorcycle gunned down Father Salvatore Carzedda in Zamboanga City. In 1998, Father Luciano Benedetti was kidnapped near Sibuco town in Zamboanga del Norte, but his abductors released him after 68 days of captivity.

Father Giancarlo Bossi was also kidnapped by at least 10-armed men in Zamboanga Sibugay in 2007, but was freed after a month in  captivity.