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Witnesses to Italian priest’s murder bare death threats

MANILA, June 27, 2012— An attempt to intimidate some witnesses to the murder of Italian priest Fr. Fausto Tentorio last year by threatening them with death was revealed Wednesday by the victim’s fellow missionary.

In a radio interview, Fr. Peter Jeremiah of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Mission said some people accused in the crime continue to make threats, as the investigation is ongoing.

“There’s a reaction from some accused and that is by threatening the witnesses and their families and the community,” said Jeremiah over Manila archdiocese-run Radyo Veritas.

Jeremiah is a known closest confrere of Tentorio, a staunch anti-mining advocate, who was gunned down inside his parish church’s compound in Arakan Valley, North Cotabato last October 11.

According to Jeremiah, the suspects, who he refused to identify, earlier sent feelers of cooperating with the authorities in order to clear their name instead of making any threats to the witnesses.

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

Last December, Jimmy Ato, one of the primary crime suspects, was arrested but the investigations up to date are at a standstill.

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

Tentorio is the third PIME missionary to be killed in the Philippines, particularly in the island of Mindanao.

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

On March 20, 1992, two men on a motorcycle gunned down PIME priest Fr. Salvatore Carzedda in Zamboanga City.

In 1998, Fr. Luciano Benedetti was kidnapped near Sibuco town in Zamboanga del Norte but his abductors released him after 68 days of captivity.

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