The main suspect charged with the murder of an Italian missionary priest has been arrested Thursday in the Philippines.
Operatives of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Region 12 are responsible for capturing the gunman. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima stated that the captured suspect, Jimmy Ato, was found in an Arakan township in the Cotabato province.
Ato’s brother, Robert, fired at the NBI agents during the arrest. According to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, no one was injured. However, Robert eluded the NBI as his brother was eventually captured. Jimmy Ato was immediately taken away by the NBI to avoid any confrontation between him and any locals in the area.
De Lima told ABS-CBN News that the authorities are deeming local politics as the possible motive in Tentorio's slaying. In a text message statement, De Lima also stated that "we're also looking at the victim's involvement in environmental issues as another possible motive."
The Italian missionary who was shot by Jimmy Ato is Rev. Fausto Tentorio. His death took place on Oct. 17, 2011. Philippine police officials said that Tentorio, 59, was shot 10 times outside his church compound as he prepared to leave for a meeting.
Tentorio now stands as the 3rd missionary from the Rome-based Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) to be killed on southern Mindanao Island.
He served as head of the Tribal Filipinos Apostolate of the Diocese of Kidapawan at the time of his death.
Arkan police Chief Benjamin Rioflorido stated that Tentorio was a beloved, longtime parish priest who was fluent in the local dialect and had close ties with the townspeople. Tentorio was a native of Santa Maria Hoe town in Italy’s Lecco province. For the past 32 years, he made his stay in the Philippines.
Tentorio was an outspoken advocate for the rights of marginalized tribal people. Armed gangs had reportedly victimized the tribes that reside in the Philippines. These armed gangs work under the military or mining companies, which choose to exploit the tribes. He was nicknamed "Father Pops" by the Filipino people.
During the funeral march for Tentorio, thousands of Filipinos paid their respects. The march soon became a protest rally where the people demanded justice for the priest.
Tentorio was buried at the Roman Catholic bishop’s compound in southern Kidapawan city. According to the priest's dying wish, he was laid in a coffin made of wood from a mahogany tree he planted many years ago.