Councilor tagged in killing of Italian priest

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A new testimony from a witness tagged a North Cotabato councilor in the killing of Father Fausto Tentorio.

(CNN Philippines) — A town councilor in North Cotabato is the latest addition to the list of suspects being linked to the killing of an Italian missionary more than three years ago.

The Justice Department-led body investigating the case is set to meet before the end of this month to evaluate the new testimony.

Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Mission (PIME) was gunned down early morning of October 17, 2011 by unidentified assailants outside his parish convent in Arakan, North Cotabato.

He was about to drive for the monthly clergy meeting in Kidapawan City that morning.

According to PIME's Fr. Peter Geremia, assistant parish priest in Arakan, a new witness surfaced and tagged Arakan Councilor Luis Bunsuran as one of those who allegedly planned the assassination plot against his colleague.

Bunsuran is a first-term town councilor and chairperson of the Municipal Council’s Committee on Peace and Order.

The witness executed his judicial affidavit complaint before the Special Investigating Team for Unsolved Cases (SITU), an investigating body composed of the Department of Justice (DOJ), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and Commission on Human Rights (CHR).

In his sworn statement, the witness revealed that Bunsuran allegedly approached him and asked him if he could kill Tentorio.

Bunsuran allegedly told the witness that Tentorio should be killed for being an active supporter of the communist New Peoples Army (NPA).

The witness added that Bunsuran even showed him the gun to be used in killing the priest, but he turned down the offer, saying that his conscience could not allow him to kill a good man who helped his children in their schooling.

A few months later, the witness said he was shocked to know that the priest was shot dead inside the church compound.

The witness revealed that two close relatives of the councilor attempted to kill him, but he fought back and killed his attackers.

Bunsuran and his lawyer refused to give any comment on the issue, but Geremia said the councilor approached him and swore he had nothing to do with the killing of Fr. Tentorio.

Geremia added that if Bunsuran indeed had no involvement in the crime he could do two things: One is to prove his innocence, and second is to reveal what he knows about the killing and turn himself in to become a state witness.

Aside from Bunsuran, other suspects who were earlier identified were Johnny Corbala, also known as Kumander Iring, a known leader of vigilante group Bagani, and his five other companions.

The government of Italy is also looking closely at the outcome of this investigation as this is the second case in North Cotabato that an Italian priest was killed while doing missionary work.

In 1985, Italian priest Fr. Tulio Favali, also of PIME, was brutally murdered in the municipality of Tulunan.