We, bishops and priests of the Visayas Clergy Discernment Group (VCDG), are appalled with the brutal murder of our brother priest, Fr. Fausto Tentorio of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME). Fr. Fausto was shot in broad daylight at the garage of Our Mother of Perpetual Help Parish Church Convent , Arakan, North Cotabato, October 17, 2011.
The manner of how he was murdered unmasks the culture of death that has pervaded the Philippine society. His killing is another number added to the more than 50 victims of extra-judicial killings since President Benigno Aquino III took office.
We join the local church of the Diocese of Kidapawan– the clergy, religious and laity in mourning for the death of Fr. Fausto who has served the diocese for more than 30 years. As a true follower of Christ, Fr. Fausto held “the griefs, hopes, joys, and anxieties of the poor” as his own. He was a modern prophet, who like Amos “spoke and acted for the Shalom or well-being of the poor and the oppressed in society. (Visayas Clergy Gathering Statement, November 9, 2010)”
As a rural missionary and as an anti-mining advocate, he helped and worked with the indigenous peoples in opposing the operation of large-scale plantations and mining which would harm them. As a human rights advocate, he joined in calling for justice for slain human rights workers and farmers in Central Mindanao in 2002.
Despite threats to his life, he fearlessly persisted in the work for justice and peace. His martyrdom, in the words of Archbishop Orlando B. Quevedo, OMI of the Archdiocese of Cotabato, will “fan the daring and courage of those who care about peace and justice enough to sacrifice themselves.”
His death must wake us in our slumber and passivity. How many more people should die before we unite in putting an end to this culture of impunity? Blessed John Paul II in his encyclical, On Social Concerns, exhorts us to do our duty as Christians, “One may sin by greed and the desire for power, but one may also sin in these matters through fear, indecision, and cowardice! (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 47)”
Thus, we are one with all people of good will in calling for justice for all martyred and disappeared priests such as: Fr. Cecilio Lucero who was murdered on September 6, 2009 for being a human rights advocate; Fr. Nery Satur, killed on October 14, 1991 for his advocacy for the environment; Fr. Rudy Romano who was disappeared on July 11, 1985 for his struggle against martial law.
Until today, most of the perpetrators of human rights violations against the clergy, and the marginalized sectors such as peasants and workers have not been brought to justice. We call on the Aquino government and its pertinent agencies to investigate and find justice to the death of Fr. Fausto so that it can significantly differentiate itself from the previous administration. Otherwise, its slogans of “change and the straight path” will remain empty.
Fr. Fausto’s life and martyrdom will not be in vain. His death strengthens our resolve to continue Christ’s work in building a society of justice and peace, even if it means giving the ultimate sacrifice for the common good.