NORTH COTABATO Rep. Nancy Catamco, a member of the ruling Liberal Party, admitted that she gave legal help to the suspects in the murder of Italian priest Fr. Fausto Tentorio.
The admission came after another Italian missionary priest, Fr. Peter Geremia tagged Catamco as the protector of the the suspects.
Catamco, in a text message sent to the media, said she indeed provided suspects Jimmy and Robert Ato with a lawyer.
And there’s nothing wrong with that, according to her.
“The Ato brothers, like other suspects, are entitled under the law, to be represented by counsel during the whole proceedings of criminal investigation,” she said in a statement sent Sunday. “For in fact, the State is duty bound to provide the services of a counsel for the accused if they cannot afford one. Thus, providing the Ato brothers of the legal services of a lawyer is not a crime.”
Last week, Geremia slammed Catamco for giving protection to the suspects. During a hearing conducted by House Committee on Human Rights in Davao City, Geremia said the suspects are roaming free while the witnesses are living in constant fear.
Catamco was widely criticized after she attempted to evict around 700 displaced Indigenous Peoples from their evacuation center in UCCP Haran. The botched eviction, which she called a rescue operation, earned the ire of the public. Mayor Rodrigo Duterte called Catamco ignorant of her role as a lawmaker.
Last week, Catamco said it was actually Duterte who ordered her to initiate the eviction.
Duterte could only say this in response: “She should educate herself before she opens her mouth.”
In the statement, Catamco justified giving help to the suspected murderers of Tentorio.
“They remain innocent. While they are being made respondents in the preliminary investigation, the DOJ (Department of Justice) is yet to resolve the investigation. They are not fugitives for there is no warrant of arrest issued against them in relation to the murder case, or to any other case for that matter.”
She also lambasted Geremia for “muddling the issue.”
“Fr. Peter Geremia’s grandstanding in the House Committee on Human Rights is too much politicking,” she said. “He has spent too much time on muddling up the issue. I could only surmise that he resorted to incendiary rhetoric because he is getting impatient that the DOJ is yet to finish the investigation.”
She urged the Italian priest to “have faith” in the investigators.
“For the sake of propriety, this representation would wish to admonish all parties, witnesses and others to be mindful that it is not appropriate to comment on an ongoing investigation. Let us all exercise personal restraint and have faith in this democratic process.”
The suspects, she said, are living with their families in Arakan.
“They are not under my custody,” she said, adding that “there is no legal reason that I can take custody of them. The last time I checked, there has been no warrant of arrest issued against them.” | JMT, NewsDesk