In recent hearings, the counsel for accused and former Air Force Col. Eduardo “Red” Kapunan accused the state witness of accepting millions of pesos from Kapunan to recant his confession, then pursuing it in exchange for immunity.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Former Air Force Col. Eduardo ‘Red’ Kapunan, supported by former Mayor Filomeno Maligaya, bribed state witness Medardo Dumlao Baretto to recant in 2009. This was the allegation repeatedly made by Kapunan’s lawyer, Lorna Kapunan, as she cross-questioned the state witness in January 23 and 29 and fumed at his continuing to sit in the witness stand.
According to Kapunan’s lawyer, state witness Baretto is “the most guilty” in the abduction-murder of labor leader Rolando Olalia and driver Leonor Alay-ay. She said Baretto is also only speaking out about the crime allegedly because he was promised immunity in return. That he is still standing by his first affidavit, which implicated Col. Kapunan, 12 more former soldiers plus others not yet listed or named in the accused, owes more to Baretto allegedly failing to get “more” bribes from Kapunan, Enrile or Honasan. This was the direction of the questioning of Kapunan’s lawyer as she grilled Baretto in two subsequent hearings this month.
According to Lorna Kapunan, in 2009, Baretto had received P3 million (US$ 73,795) plus another P2 million (US$ 49,197) in exchange for Baretto’s executing an affidavit that would recant his first affidavit.
Lawyer Kapunan said the bribe was handed out to Baretto by (Col. Red) Kapunan’s driver, a certain Jerry, who sat at the next table where former Col. Kapunan and former operative Baretto met in UCC coffee shop in Quezon City early in 2009. Lawyer Kapunan did not say whether the alleged P3 million (US$ 73,795) and P2 million (US$ 49,197) were all handed out in that same meeting, but she did say the driver handed the money in a “supot” or disposable bag.
Baretto denied Kapunan’s allegations. He admitted to taking part in the surveillance and abduction of Olalia and Alay-ay, but not in their murder. He called the Olalia murder a RAM job, but lawyer Kapunan reminded him that part of the job of the Special Operation Group (under then Defense Sec. Juan Ponce Enrile) was doing surveillance operations on communists and their agents.
Baretto also told the court he did not know Kapunan’s driver, but he confirmed he and Kapunan did have a series of meetings in 2009 over Kapunan’s and Maligaya’s request for him to recant his first affidavit.
In these January hearings and in past hearings late last year, he said it was a request he was in no position to refuse.
Baretto’s first affidavit, executed in 1998, is one of the bases of the state for ordering the arrest of 13 accused in the abduction and murder of labor leader Rolando Olalia and driver Leonor Alay-ay. But the accused, who were all members of ultra-rightist group called RAM within the Philippine military, were not immediately arrested and their trial in court was delayed by various legal questions they filed from the Court of Appeals up to the Supreme Court.
It was only in 2009 when the Supreme Court finally issued a decision ordering the trial of the accused. Trial began only in 2012, with just three of the 12 accused in custody. Even as the KMU has called for the arrest of the rest of the accused, the labor center also criticizes the seeming special treatment being accorded the accused in custody, especially former Col. Kapunan.
Last year, the court listened to Baretto’s testimony. This year the defense through lawyer Kapunan has been grilling the witness. From witness Baretto’s testimony and questions thrown to him by lawyer Lorna Kapunan, legal counsel of former Col. Kapunan, the following was what transpired since the state witness issued his bombshell implicating members of RAM to today when the trial has been ongoing, 26 years after the crime, 14 years after the state witness’s tell-all first affidavit.
Recantation for survival, withdrawal of recantation for the truth
From 1998 up to now, state witness Baretto had been under the Witness Protection Program, except in the years 2001 to 2003, when he asked permission to leave the program to attend to his family’s need to put its property documents in order. Baretto reasoned he was the only male member of the family who could do it.
In 2009 Baretto left the Witness Protection Program (WPP) again, after his request for a new safehouse in Metro Manila was denied by the director at the time. Baretto told the court he asked for another safehouse because he felt threatened as he was being contacted again by Col. Kapunan.
With his attempt at fixing his security rebuffed, Baretto entered Kapunan’s “endgame.”
In Baretto’s words, in Filipino: “I have decided to inform WPP of the overtures of Col. Kapunan and Maligaya. I requested for a safehouse in Manila. But the director of the WPP did not grant it. So at the pressure of Col. Kapunan and Maligaya I executed the second document. When I handed them that document, Kapunan and Maligaya calmed down and I gained the time to continue the long wait until a court order came out and here’s the case.”
He returned to the program in 2012 “Because in 2012 the most awaited development in the case occurred.” Asked what this “most awaited development” was, Baretto replied: “I came out as witness in 1998, the court order and (warrant of) arrest came out in 2012.”
If he did not recant for money, why then did he continue and even meet with Kapunan despite his saying the mere mention of Kapunan’s name made him shake in fear?
“I continued the recantation of first affidavit when Col. Kapunan and Mayor Maligaya approached me. They requested that recantation, I saw later it was their endgame in this case. I thought it best to play along with their game plan,” Baretto told the court.
Denying Kapunan’s allegations that he pocketed up to P5-million (US$ 122,992) in bribes, Baretto said he returned to the Witness Protection Program in 2012, and that he reported that he issued a second affidavit. He regarded the second affidavit, the one that calmed down Kapunan, as a “security measure.”
During the trial in the murder of Olalia and Alay-ay, state witness Baretto repudiated his second affidavit. He retracted his retraction, in effect. “My first affidavit is the true one,” he said.