Army denies backing militia in Tentorio slay
DAVAO CITY—A ranking military commander denied knowledge of the existence of a militia that is now being held responsible for the murder of Italian missionary Fr. Fausto Tentorio in Arakan, North Cotabato.
A member of the militia, known as Bagani Forces, surfaced recently to turn state witness.
Brig. Gen. Cesar Sedillo, head of the Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade, the military unit that has jurisdiction over Arakan, made the denial as he testified on the second day of the two-day hearing conducted by the House committee on justice on extrajudicial killings in Mindanao on Friday.
Asked by Alliance of Concerned Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio about Bagani Forces in Arakan, which the military is allegedly supporting, Sedillo appeared to be at a loss for answers.
Then he said he was uncertain if the group exists.
When told by an aide that Bagani means “warrior,” Sedillo said he has not encountered the militia.
Tinio butted in and said he wondered why Sedillo did not hear about Bagani when the existence of this group is well-known among indigenous peoples.
The militia member who turned state witness said Bagani is being supported by the military.
The Bagani member, whose identity is being withheld for his protection, said Bagani Forces is headed by John Corbala, alias Commander Iring, a militiaman.
He said Corbala, “with the blessing of the military,” ordered the killing of Tentorio because of his being “a supporter of the New People’s Army.”
The Bagani member, now a government witness in the Tentorio murder case, said Corbala even got P50,000 in operational funds from the military for the operation that led to Tentorio’s killing.
When confronted with this information, Sedillo said he knew only of the Pulang Bagani Command operating in Davao, led by communist rebel leader Leoncio Pitao.
“Bagani is common knowledge among the communities. But they are saying different things,” said Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles, who heads the committee on justice, in comments made after the hearing.
Nograles said the committee has asked the military, police and Commission on Human Rights to dig deeper into the existence of Bagani Forces. Ayan Mellejor and Williamor Magbanua, Inquirer Mindanao
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.