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Priest hopes Duterte can help bring fellow missionary’s killer to justice

Justice is slow in the Philippines, but Fr Peter Geremia is running out of patience as he awaits justice for the killers of a fellow priest.

Fr Geremia is hoping that the country’s new president, Rodrigo Duterte, can cut through the impunity and corruption that the priest says have prevented bringing to justice the killers of Fr Fausto Tentorio. The Italian missionary was shot to death on 17th October 2011, just outside his parish office in the rural town of Arakan on the southern island of Mindanao, where he had helped indigenous communities organise to resist the theft of their lands by foreign mining companies, loggers, and large agro-export plantations.

Fr Geremia, who was born in Italy but became a US citizen in 1971 after living in the United States for more than a decade, is a member of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, as were Fr Tentorio and two other priests assassinated in Mindanao. One of them, Fr Tullio Favali, was murdered in 1985 by military-linked assassins who thought they were killing Fr Geremia. Six men were convicted of that killing and served lengthy prison terms.

But that’s not the case with Fr Tentorio’s killers, who remain officially unidentified despite multiple investigations and a Byzantine trail of confessions and recantations by people with links to a paramilitary squad.

Fr Geremia says the Church got several key witnesses to Fr Tentorio’s killing into a witness protection program, but as the case has dragged on, the witnesses have chafed at their lack of freedom.

Picture: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez).