February 20, 2012
Four (4) suspects in the cold blooded murder of Italian missionary priest Fr. Fausto C. Tentorio were recommended for prosecution by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) before the Provincial Prosecutor of Kidapawan City, North Cotabato last week.
In a report submitted to NBI Officer-in-Charge, Atty. Nonnatus Caesar R. Rojas, the suspects were identified as:
1. JOSE SULTAN SAMPULNA, of Doroluman, Arakan, North Cotabato, who drove the black Yamaha DT motorbike ridden by the gunman;
2. DIMA MALIGUDAN SAMPULNA, of Purok Rang-ayan, Lower Paatan, Kabakan, North Cotabato;
3. ROBERT ATO, of Sitio Mahiwak-hiwak, Kulaman, Arakan, North Cotabato, was the driver of the blue Honda XRM motorbike ridden by JIMMY ATO;
4. JIMMY ATO, of Sitio Mahiwak-hiwak, Kulaman, Arakan, North Cotabato, who in his statement, admitted inter alia, as having acted as a "look-out" for the team of SAMPULNA, who allegedly killed Fr. Pops;
Several JOHN DOES who are principals by Inducement (masterminds) by conspiring with the assassins were also included and recommended for prosecution.
The recommendation for prosecution was transmitted to the Provincial Prosecutor on February 14, 2012, and docketed as IS# XII-06-INV-12B-00089 for charges of murder.
A joint probe conducted by the NBI Region 12 (Koronadal Regional Office and Saranggani District Office), Region 10 (Cagayan de Oro City) and Region 11 (Davao City) in coordination with the PNP Region 12 Task Group Fausto disclosed that at about 7:20 in the morning of October 17, 2011, Fr. FAUSTO C. TENTORIO was found lying in the parking area inside the church compound.
At the time of the incident, Fr. Pops (an Italian Priest) as he was fondly called, was the Parish Priest of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Arakan, North Cotabato. It was later discovered that Fr. Pops was murdered by unknown assasins for unknown reasons.
Nine (9) eyewitnesses before, during and after the incident and were near the crime scene identified the suspects. Some of them saw DIMA SAMPULNA ride in the black motorcycle driven by JOSE SAMPULNA. Another eyewitness saw ROBERT ATO drove the Honda XRM where JIMMY ATO rode with him.
Minutes after the shooting, an ambulance arrived at the crime scene and immediately brought Fr. TENTORIO to the Antipas Medical Specialists, where Fr. Pops was declared 'Dead-on-Arrival'.
In the early morning of December 29, 2011, NBI Agents, pursuant to a Warrant of Arrest issued by the Regional Trial Court (Br.13) in Cotabato City, apprehended Subject JIMMY ATO, who stands charged for Destructive Arson with Homicide (No Bail). JIMMY ATO duly assisted by his counsel, in his sworn statement admitted that he was part of the assassination team, allegedly compose of JOSE SAMPULNA, DIMA SAMPULNA and ROBERT ATO.
That, he acted as a look out and for his participation he was paid by JOE SAMPULNA the sum of One Thousand Five Hundred Pesos (P1,500.00) a few days after the killing.
Considering the gravity of the allegations implicating high profile personalities in the assassination of Fr. Pops, a deeper probe is being undertaken by the Task Force to firmly establish these accusations of JIMMY ATO.
At present, leads are still being pursued by the Task Group that may eventually unmask other co-conspirators/cohorts in this crime.