Suspect in Italian priest’s slay nabbed

by Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 29 2011 12:27 PM | Updated as of Dec 30 2011 03:17 AM

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) - Operatives of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Region 12 have arrested the suspected gunman in the killing of Italian priest Fr. Fausto Tentorio last October in Mindanao.

The gunman was identified as Jimmy Ato, while his brother, Robert, was identified as the motorcycle getaway driver, according to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

Both are from Sitio Mahiwakwak, Kolaman Valley, Arakan, North Cotabato province.

De Lima told ABS-CBN News authorities are looking at local politics as the possible motive in Tentorio's slay, but refused to give further details so as not to jeopardize continuing operations.

In a text message, De Lima said:"We're also looking at the victim's involvement in environmental issues as another possible motive."

De Lima also clarified only suspected gunman Jimmy Ato was nabbed by NBI operatives and the Philippine National Police's (PNP) Special Task Group Fausto.

Jimmy Ato has an outstanding warrant of arrest for destructive arson with homicide issued by the Cotabato City Regional Trial Court Branch 13.

The suspect's brother Robert fired at the NBI agents upon arrest. Fortunately, no one was injured, according to De Lima. He eluded arrest.

Jimmy Ato was immediately whisked away by the NBI to avoid any confrontation between him and locals.

The 57th Army Infantry Battalion was requested to put up check points in the area to avert any possible retaliation by the Ato family against local NBI assets.

Tentorio, who was gunned down in October 18, had served in Mindanao since 1978.

At the time of his death, he headed the Tribal Filipinos Apostolate of the Diocese of Kidapawan, also in North Cotabato.
Tentorio was the third Italian Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) priest gunned down in Mindanao, and the second in the Diocese of Kidapawan.