Still no justice as the Aquino gov’t refuses to go after its own people

After a year since Fr. Pops Tentorio’s killing 

“It has been a year after the extrajudicial killing of Fr. Fausto Tentorio, and the real masterminds and perpetrators of this heinous offense have not been rendered justice. Karapatan attributes this grave injustice to the persistent denial and stonewalling of the Aquino administration in holding the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and its paramilitary groups accountable,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan.

Yesterday, at the United Nations Human Rights Committee 106th session in Geneva, Switzerland, the head of Philippine government delegation and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said that the murder of Fr. Tentorio has not been validated as an extrajudicial killing. 

“Such act of the Aquino administration indicates its refusal to go after its own people, the paramilitary group Bagani which, is under the command of the AFP. Thus, as in almost all cases of human rights violations, the perpetrators run around freely, terrorize many more and do it with impunity,” she said. 

Karapatan said that in April 2012, a new witness to the killing of Fr. Tentorio came out, prompting the members of the Justice for Fr. Fausto Tentorio Movement and the Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions (PIME) to file charges against Jan Corbala and four others of the Bagani paramilitary group, also known as Alamara. Corbala is known in Arakan, North Cotabato as “Commander Iring (cat).”  The Bagani paramilitary group is the military’s version of the CAFGU (Civilian Armed Force Geographical Unity) among the indigenous peoples in Mindanao. 

Justice for Fr. Pops 

Prior to this, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has not included the above-mentioned members of Bagani among the respondents in the case, despite information that the said paramilitary group threatened and harassed Fr. Tentorio. Then Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Jesse Robredo publicly denied the existence of the said Bagani force and refused to investigate them. 

Palabay said the military played on and bastardized the bagani, an indigenous system of defense among the Lumad and the traditional peace pacts, and used them in establishing the Bagani Defense Force for its counterinsurgency program.  She recalled that the practice dates back from the time of the Marcos dictatorship. 

A paramilitary group called Ilaga murdered Italian missionary Fr. Tulio Favali and mutilated his body, 26 years ago. He was also a PIME priest who worked among the Lumad in North Cotabato. But instead of dismantling these groups, Cory Aquino created the CAFGU through an Executive Order 264, violating Article 18, Section 24 of the 1987 Constitution that prohibits private armies and paramilitary forces. 

Under Noynoy Aquino, the paramilitary group’s strength gained when the Special Civilian Armed Auxilliary was expanded specifically to augment security for private, big business corporations engaged in large-scale and destructive mining. 

Karapatan said that the slow pace by which the court cases proceeds against those involved in the murder is the signature pace of cases of killings involving state security forces.  It cited the case of Aldy Salusad of the NIPAR paramilitary group in Bukidnon, who is responsible for the killing of tribal leader Jimmy Liguyon who remains free and continues to terrorize Liguyon’s community members; and the case of Morong 43 torturers like Jorge Segovia and Aurelio Baladad who were promoted to higher ranks despite pending court cases against them.  “This is the imprimatur of impunity promoted by the AFP and the Aquino administration,” concluded Palabay.