to the fascist AFP that wanted his head, and to the current oppressive Aquino regime, whose policy is to justify exploitation and intensify oppression, Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio’s death was yet another crime. To the masses, to all peace-loving advocates, to the revolutionary movement, his was a death of a martyr, a beloved servant of the masses.
For Tatay Pops, the masses, and the masses alone are the creators of history. He so understood that the masses whom he served are the true heroes, not himself. He was, to many friends and colleagues, that candid, hardworking missionary in Arakan who runs a parish, runs pre-schools in pre-dominantly Lumad villages, who oversees a Notre dame highschool, and who, every Sunday, gives brief but profound homilies that affected people’s lives.
Production and livelihood, health, education and literacy—things which are dear to the masses—these pre-occupied the thoughts of Tatay Pops. For him, no time should be wasted, his talent, skills, and drive were all devoted to better the lives of the peasants and Lumads and to advance the revolutionary struggle. He cautioned colleagues from staying in convent and instead focus their time in the areas. He understood sacrifice, but he never uttered the word. To an exhausted colleague, he would dearly say that the fatigue would pass if you’re happy with your work with the people. He lived simply, not the one to pamper himself and even to his colleagues; he did not go beyond what was needed. He was not miserly for he was generous but his generosity was always for the people, for the organizations that he helped serve, and not for personal and individual whims.
This, because he learned from the masses. He was transformed from being an adventurous 27-year old Italian newly ordained priest who came to the Philippines who never looked back. Coming from a working class family in Italy, he saw the vast oppression and poverty in our country during the Marcos dictatorship. In the first few decades, he understood what was explicit, that peasants and Lumads need support to raise their livelihoods and incomes. He sought to make his missionary life solely devoted in the welfare of the masses. And so he raised funds in Italy, from friends and associates in his congregation, to secure pigs, water buffaloes and farming tools.
Yet the inherent failures of the dole-out system and the tendency of commandism, instead of painstaking work with the masses, caught up with him. He became frustrated when he saw beneficiaries slaughtering the animals for food instead of maintaining these for livelihood. He realized that it was not enough to just give stuff to the people while they are poor and exploited. In integrating with the masses, in practicing criticism and self-criticism, it taught him a valuable lesson: the genuine meaning of mass line, that is to solve the problems of the masses is to raise their consciousness and alongside with them, solve the practical problems of their daily lives. He helped educate the people, and struggle to increase production, fight against usury and high land rent. And he saw the masses cooperate, strengthen organizations, unite and struggle against incursions in ancestral lands and militarization. He saw that politics was the lifeblood of the economic work of the people. He himself studied and understood the contradictions of Philippine society. He saw the preponderance of political life and its importance to the people. He saw the ultimate people’s struggle as an imminent part in the full salvation of the people. In his sermons, he guided peasants and the masses towards the kind of deliverance by embracing the national democratic struggle, that they themselves and they alone could thwart the system that has long marginalized them, thwart the yoke of poverty, landlessness and exploitation they bore.
He was the unassuming missionary, who was friends with the Church hierarchy—that did not always believe in the same convictions. Though he was never silent with his political beliefs towards his colleagues in the Church, he was low-key, in the sense that he was not the one to lead in high-profile political events, he preferred to stay on the ground and reach out to people, to schoolchildren, to Lumads.
And by transforming himself into a consummate selfless missionary, he became fearless, courageous, unafraid with death, if death was to be a consequence of his being a modern day prophet and a shepherd—steering his flock to take the path of people’s struggle and attain liberation. He was courageous and resisted having a driver or an assistant. He was persevering in the face of the many hostile attempts against his life. He even ventured to expand his work outside Arakan and North Cotabato and help other Lumads in the region.
He never swayed from the commitment to serve the masses, working around the boundaries, if not limitations, of his being a foreign missionary. For if there is one thing that feared Tatay Pops the most, it was to be uprooted from the masses, to be deported and returned back home. The thought of being reprimanded by his superiors at the PIME and the Catholic Church hierarchy, and to suddenly be blacklisted by the reactionary immigration authorities, this constituted to what could be his only fear in life.
He was, after all, the simple missionary who lived like the masses. His words and deeds served to defend the interest of the masses. His actions sought to unite the people against the evils of our time-imperialism, bureaucrat capitalism and feudalism.
And so his death is unbearable to the people whom he served, to the masses who have etched him in their hearts. The Communist Party of the Philippines and the revolutionary movement mourn his death and pay tribute to his profound life, a life well-spent in the service of the people. He was 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.
The Oplan Bayanihan of the US-Aquino Regime has made him 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.
And as we express our grief as he is laid to rest, the revolutionary forces vow to bring revolutionary justice for Fr. Pops. The people’s army is ever poised to inflict blows against the enemy who have martyred Fr. Pops. As we grieve, we express our determination to struggle resolutely in crushing the enemies that have felled him and attain a society free from exploitation and oppression.