MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/19 October) – His anti-mining advocacy and  active defense of indigenous peoples’ rights could be the “possible, if not probable, cause” for the murder of Italian missionary, Fr. Fausto Tentorio, two groups today said.

Tentorio, parish priest of Our Mother of Perpetual Help Parish in Arakan, North Cotabato and a member of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), was gunned down early Monday morning by motorcycle-riding men, in the garage of  his convent, as he was preparing to drive to a monthly clergy meeting in Kidapawan City, 52 kilometers away.

“Fr. Tentorio understood the disastrous effects mining activities would have on his people – despite the consent some were giving these under the influence of the mines.  As a man of God, therefore, giving voice to the voiceless, he opposed these – taking no heed of the danger this brought him.  Perhaps he should have taken heed.  Now he is dead,” the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) said in a statement.

The CEAP stressed that the murder “at this point cannot incontrovertibly be laid at the feet of large-scale mining activities in Mindanao” but that Tentorio’s anti-mining advocacy is “a possible, if not probable, cause for his murder.”

The group noted that since 2003, the priest’s life had been under threats for his defense of the rights of the Lumads of the province and his advocacy for  a safe environment.

Tentorio was never unfazed by these threats, the Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. Anti–Mining Campaign secretariat said in a separate statement.

The PMPI-AMC said that a fellow missionary had posted in his blog anti-mining sentiments by the Tribal Filipino Program of the Diocese of Kidapawan, of which Tentorio was coordinator. The same blog alleged that the public hearings on the Environmental Impact Assessment of SMI did not give a fair chance to the opposition to present their side.

Lawyer Mario E. Maderazo, PMPI-AMC project officer said: “This senseless killing should be a wake-up call for the Aquino Administration to reconsider its recent decision of backing the formation and deployment of militias to beef up security for mining corporations.”

He said the move “will only perpetuate the condition which made the killing of Fr. Fausto  possible. The rule of law will not spring from use of arms and armed militias. Only an empowered citizenry capable of combating poverty, inequality and injustice in their communities will bring genuine peace to our land and people”

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Just a few days ago, I wrote a post about the possibility of civilian armed auxiliaries employing violence against anti-mining advocates. And here it is.

Considering that the armed forces plan to create more “militia” units for mining firms in the wake of the New People’s Army attack in Claver, Surigao del Norte, it would not be difficult to imagine seeing more cases like this of Fr. Tentorio’s.