Fr. Peter Geremia
ARSENIO VILLAMOR, Jr. was one of the accused in the murder of Fr. TULLIO FAVALI, PIME on April 11,1985, together with Norberto Manero, Jr. alias Commander Bukay and companions. Eight of the accused were sentenced to life imprisonment but Mr. Villamor went into hiding as a fugitive from justice and was arrested only on September 13, 1998.
Then a case was filed against him for murder of Fr. Favali and for attempt murder of Rufino Robles, one of the local church leaders who was shot and wounded just before the killing of Fr. Favali.
These two cases are still pending at the Regional Court [RTC] of Kidapawan. The Prosecution has not yet finished presenting the evidence and the Defense will follow. This means that the court proceedings are expected to last for several more years.
On February 8, 2003 Mr. Arsenio Villamor, Jr. came to the Diocese of Kidapawan together with his daughter and another relative and in the presence of Bishop Romulo Valles, Fr. Peter Geremia, Atty. Greg Andolana, Rufino Robles and Domingo Gomez he presented his request for clemency. Mr. Villamor presented three handwritten letters addressed to the Bishop, to Fr. Peter and Rufino Robles.
In his letter and in his personal comments Mr. Villamor explained that he is already 64 years old and he is suffering from various sickness such as diabetes, cyrrosis of the liver and pneumonia. He pleaded to stop the trial against him out of compassion and in order to be reconciled with the church.
According to the RTC decision of July 17, 1987 which was confirmed by the Supreme Court decision of January 29, 1985 with the Manero groups and:
“ They talked of a plan to kill some persons that day. Then Arsenio Villamor, Jr. wrote on a cigarette wrapper the following: NPA versus NPA, starting Fr. Peter… The all agreed to the proposal of Edilberto that if they could not kill Fr. Peter they would kill anyone who is an Italian. Upon the suggestion of Arsenio Villamor, Jr. they all moved to the cock house about 100 meters away to finish their plan…
This was the most direct testimony against Mr. Villamor. Then during the on-going trial many other testimonies were added pointing to him as the main local coordinator of the counter-insurgency campaign during the time of Martial Law which targeted many church people.
During our conference on February 8, 2003 Mr. Villamor explained that he was only the personal secretary of Mayor Josue Faustino at that time and he was not the one deciding on the killings. He admitted that on April 11, 1985 he went to the eatery to talk to Norberto Manero Jr. and he also suggested to prepare placards of propaganda against the rebel movement, but he said that he left before the killing.
Fr. Peter and the Bishop advised Mr. Villamor to reveal confidentially the names of those who planned and ordered the killing of Fr. Peter, which resulted in the killing of Fr. Favali. Villamor gave only an evasive answer and added the Norberto Manero, Jr. planned the killing and he had special authorization from higher military officers. We said that we do not intend to file more cases against the masterminds but it is important to bring out the truth on this matter because, the Bishop added, “the truth will make you free… your conscience will be at peace and also we the Church like to know the truth so that we don’t suspect others and face causes of what happened”
The Fr. Peter mentioned that at that time also the rebels were planning to liquidate or eliminate Mr. Villamor and they asked for Fr. Peter’s opinion, but he told them that this would only provoke more killings of innocent civilians. Fr. Peter concluded with the question,” Did you Mr. Villamor try to spare the lives of civilians?”
Mr. Rufino Robles mentioned a number of lay church leaders who were killed at that time. Mr. Villamor said that he recognizes that 14 of them have been declared “MARTYRS “. Then he added that he wants to able to go to church again.
Mr. Villamor also pledge not to participate in anyway in any attempt to harm the witnesses who testified against him and he wrote this letter. But he added that he cannot guarantee for the Manero’s because of “their killing instinct… therefore be careful and I can help you to obtain police assistance in case the witness need it..” the conference of Feb. 8 ended with a personal reconciliation of Mr. Villamor and all present.
On Feb. 17,2003 Atty. Andolana made a manifestation at the RTC to suspend the trial of Mr. Villamor and on March 10, 2003 he prepared a written motion for that purpose. Now it is up to the Judge to decide on the dismissal of the case.