MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - The parish priest of Arakan Valley in North Cotabato was shot dead by a lone gunman inside a church compound Monday.
Initial reports said Fr. Tentorio Fausto, an Italian, had just finished officiating Mass at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Arakan Valley around 8 a.m. when he was shot 3 times in the chest and torso.
He was immediately rushed to Antipas Hospital in Kidapawan City some 21 kilometers away where he died.
Philippine National Police spokesman Agrimero Cruz said investigators found 3 spent shells at the crime scene.
A CBCPNews report said the Italian priest was preparing to attend the regular clergy meeting at the Bishop’s Residence in Kidapawan when he was shot by the gunman armed with a pistol with a silencer.
Fr. Peter Geremia, a confrere of Fr. Fausto, said nobody heard the shots but one witness saw saw a man donning a motorcycle helmet walking away from the garage.
A missionary from the Rome-based Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), Fr. Fausto had been assigned to the Philippines since 1979.
Sources at the PIME said Fr. Fausto had received death threats from unknown groups or individuals 2 years ago and had to postpone his return to the Philippines by two to three months.
Several PIME missionaries have been kidnap victims over the years including Fr. Luciano Benedetti in June 1998 in Sibuco, Zamboanga del Norte1998 and Fr. Giancarlo Bossi in June 10, 2007 in Bulawan, Payao, Zamboanga Sibugay.
Two other PIME missionaries were killed while assigned to separate places in Mindanao. First was Fr. Tulio Favali in Tulunan in North Cotabato in 1985 and Fr. Salvatorre Carcedda in Zamboanga in 1992.
Kidapawan Bishop Romulo dela Cruz , meanwhile, denounced Fr. Fausto's murder. “It is a very sad incident, very painful for us because all the while we thought Kidapawan is already a peaceful place," he said.
Dela Cruz said he and the clergy, along with the PIME missionaries thought Fr. Tulio Favali’s death would be the last fatal incident involving foreign missionaries in Kidapawan.
“This is a very sad incident… this is very painful for us because all the while we thought Kidapawan is already a peaceful place,” he said.
Dela Cruz described the Italian missionary as a man who “did his job quietly” and whose term as Diocesan Indigenous Peoples Director would end next year.
Fr. Giovanni Re, the Zamboanga City-based PIME regional superior, said they have already put security measures in place for PIME missionaries.
“We have coordinated with the local police and military but sometimes, when one really wants to get you then nobody knows what will happen,” he said. With reports from Lerio Bompat and Edwin Sevidal, ABS-CBN News; and CBCP News