If Father Pops saw parents who can’t afford to send their children to school, he immediately registered their children under his educational programs.
Endearing himself to the lumads and peasants, Fr. Pops solicited the opposite from fanatic paramilitary groups.
Around 2003, when Indao was still in primary school, members of a military-backed paramilitary group Alamara went to their house and searched for Father Pops. Indao’s memories of this incident were still fresh. They hid Father Pops in a small ‘bodega’ and she and her siblings played outside to distract and divert the attention of the fanatic group. Her older sister played sick so the Alamara members could not go inside their house.
“They wanted Father Pops dead. They want to cut his ear and eat it,” she said.
Thanks to this peasant family, Father Pops’ life was extended for eight more years.
We want justice
“Gusto gyud nako nga pangitaan og hustisya si Father Fausto kay kadtong nagpatay sa iya, dili lang si Father Fausto iyang gipatay, lakip na among kaugmaon namong mga scholar, iya usab gipatay,” (I want to seek justice for Father Fausto because the one who killed him, he didn’t only kill Father Fausto, he also killed the future of his scholars), she said.
“Only Father Pops helped us from our very dire condition. He’s like a government giving help and services to his people. Why did they kill him?” she asked.
Indao said her heart broke when she learned that he was murdered. “I can’t accept what happened to him. Our (the scholars) hearts bleed for Father Pops,” she said.
“Is it a crime to help others? Is that the reason why they killed him?” Rabadon said.
Rabadon said he’s not the only one who’s going to experience changes after Father Pops’ death.
“What happens now to his scholars? How about the lumads? The people he has been helping? The schools he built?” he wondered.
“It’s very painful to lose someone who has been there all the time to help you. It’s very painful, even just the thought of it,” he said.
No accidental killing?
“When they eliminate one like (Father) Fausto, as if they would want to eliminate those who’d like to serve the people that way,” Fr. Peter Jeremiah, PIME, said.
Fr. Jeremiah shared that the autopsy report reveals there were two kinds of bullets used against Father Pops. “The impact was instant that (Father) Pops could not be helped to survive,” he said.
According to the medico-legal expert, out of the 1,800 cases of autopsy he handled, Father Fausto was only the second case where the assassin used that kind of bullet. “Those fragmentation bullets are very unusual, very rare. So whoever prepared this killing used the most deadly kind of weapon,” he said.
The Italian priest suffered 10 gunshot wounds.“This was not an accidental killing, it was purposely planned,” Fr. Jeremiah said. He said the killing of Father Pops cannot be done by any of the local people or someone who had some resentment, but can only be done by a very powerful group of people. “I am convinced that the planners involved several people who consented to this (killing),” he said.
He said what happened to Father Pops is a threat to everybody. “It is a threat to the community because by doing that they kill the one who represents the dreams of the community and they can kill anybody,” he said.
Father Pops is the first Roman Catholic priest killed under the Aquino regime. He’s the 54th victim under the Aquino government’s counter-insurgency operational plan, Bayanihan. He’s the third member of he Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) killed during the last 26 years. The first one was Fr. Tullio Favali who was killed by Edilberto Manero in 1985 in Tulunan, North Cotabato. The second was Father Salvatore Carzedda who was killed in Zamboanga city in 1992.
Siegfred M. Red, secretary of the CPP’s (Communist Party of the Philippines) Southern Mindanao Regional Party Committee, said, in a tribute published in national and local dailies, “The Oplan Bayanihan of the US-Aquino Regime has made him (Father Pops) a victim, a martyr, a symbol of the political repression of the decaying system in the country. His death has exposed the ferocity of the AFP and the Aquino regime; without compunction, it took the life of a missionary, a civilian.”
“His killing unmasked the viciousness of the Oplan Bayanihan which employs political killing as a continuing and explicit policy of the Aquino government for counterrevolution, less than a year after it was implemented. The 6th ID-Eastern Mindanao Command of the AFP carries the blood debt for Fr. Pops,” added Red.
The military, immediately after Father Pops’ killing, denied any hand. The AFP’s Eastern Mindanao Command spokesperson Col. Leopoldo Galon, Jr., went as far as to accuse the CPP of masterminding the killing of Fr. Pops, a charge that the military, as of press time, has not substantiated.
Indao said that Fr. Pops may be an Italian but his heart was undoubtedly Filipino, “he was so kind and giving. He feels for every poor family like mine. He’s the kindest person we’ve ever encountered.”
CPP’s Red praised Fr. Pops as “an Italian who became a great Filipino–a communist, an internationalist, who devoted more than half of his life to serve the interest of the poor Filipino masses and make the cause of the Filipino people as his own.”
Rabadon said that actions and mobilizations must be undertaken to bring the perpetrators to justice.
But for now, he can only hope, that whoever replaces Father Pops, “He will be like Father Pops who seeks the interest of the people and not only his own.”
“People like (Father) Fausto is still moving us. We share the same kind of commitment and the same feeling that we cannot abandon the people. And so even if he’s buried, he’s still alive in many of us, and will continue his work,” Fr. Jeremiah said.