MANILA, Philippines - The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has recommended for prosecution four suspects in the killing of Italian missionary priest Fausto Tentorio before the North Cotabato prosecutor’s office.
A report submitted to NBI officer-in-charge Nonnatus Caesar Rojas identified the four suspects as Jose Sultan Sampulna, Dima Maligudan Sampulna, Robert Ato, and Jimmy Ato.
Jimmy Ato was the only one arrested by the NBI last December. The three others are still at large.
Based on the accounts of nine witnesses, the NBI said Jose Sampulna was the one who drove the black Yamaha DT motorcycle used by the gunman, who was not named by the NBI.
Robert Ato, for his part, drove the blue Honda XRM motorbike ridden by Jimmy Ato, who acted as a “lookout” during the killing, the NBI said.
Several unidentified persons, considered as principals by inducement or masterminds, were also recommended for prosecution.
According to the joint police-NBI investigation, Tentorio was found bloodied in the parking area in the compound of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Arakan, North Cotabato on Oct.17 last year.
At the time of the incident, Tentorio, or Fr. Pops as he was fondly called, was the parish priest of the Arakan Catholic community.
The motive behind Tentorio’s killing was still unknown.
Minutes after the shooting, an ambulance arrived at the crime scene and immediately brought Tentorio to the Anipas Medical Specialists, where he was declared dead on arrival.
In the early morning of Dec. 29 last year, NBI agents, pursuant to a warrant of arrest issued by the Regional Trial Court Branch 13 in Cotabato City arrested Jimmy Ato.
He was earlier charged with destructive arson with homicide, with no bail recommended.
In his sworn statement, Jimmy Ato admitted he was part of the killing, as he acted as lookout for the group of Jose Sampulna, Dima Sampulna and Robert Ato and was paid P1,500 for it.
Considering the gravity of Jimmy Ato’s allegations implicating high-profile personalities in Tentorio’s killing, a deeper probe is still underway.
At present, leads are still being pursued that may eventually unmask other co-conspirators and cohorts in the crime, the NBI said. - By Sandy Araneta