Satur, others appeal SC order on Arroyo-era charges

The petitioners maintained that public prosecutor Rosulo Vivero committed “prosecutorial misconduct when he knowingly used recycled and falsified evidence as basis to file multiple murder charges.”

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and his co-accused filed March 10 a motion for reconsideration on the Supreme Court’s recent order to resume hearings on the multiple murder charges filed against them.

The multiple murder charges were filed against Ocampo, Rafael Baylosis, Randall Echanis and Vicente Ladlad in August 2006, at the height of the filing of fabricated charges against critics of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In its decision dated February 11, the high court dismissed the consolidated petitions for certiorari filed by Ocampo, Baylosis, Echanis and Ladlad. The SC held that the accused were accorded due process during the preliminary investigation. The SC further said the political offense doctrine was not a ground to dismiss the charges against the petitioners “prior to the determination by the trial court that the murders were committed in furtherance of rebellion.”

In their 61-page motion for reconsideration, a copy of which was obtained by Bulatlat.com from their counsels at the Public Interest Law Center (PILC), the petitioners said, “there are hallmarks of fabrication and perjury tantamount to denial of due process.”

“It is well to state at the outset that this case is simply a recycled case maliciously filed with the sole motive of persecuting herein petitioners,” the petition read.

Travelling skeletons?

Satur Ocampo
Satur Ocampo (Bulatlat file photo)
In July 2000, a complaint for multiple murder was filed against 25 alleged New People’ s Army (NPA) guerrillas in connection with the alleged mass grave found in Monterico village, Baybay Leyte. Two witnesses were presented by the prosecution. On January 10, 2005, the case was dismissed. The court said that there were no eyewitnesses to prove a blow-by-blow account of what actually transpired and neither were the victims sufficiently identified.

After one year, the police chief inspector of Philippine National Police Region 8 and Allan Tiu of the 8th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army filed 12 counts of multiple murder charges against Ocampo, Baylosis, Echanis, Ladlad and 70 other alleged leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

“The new complaints recycled the story peddled by the prosecution in the Baybay case. False witnesses, who were involved in the Baybay case, were also utilized as alleged witnesses in the instant multiple murder charges,” the petition read.

The petition stated that five of the victims, whose skeletal remains were allegedly found in Monterico village, Baybay, Leyte on June 27, 2000 were the same alleged victims in the Hilongos case, whose skeletal remains were allegedly found on August 26, 2006 in Mt. Sapang Dako, Inopacan, Leyte.

The petitioners maintained that public prosecutor Rosulo Vivero committed “prosecutorial misconduct when he knowingly used recycled and falsified evidence as basis to file multiple murder charges.”

“ The incredible ‘coincidence’ could not have escaped Prosecutor Vivero’s eye. These are two different localities; hence, the alleged skeletal remains could not have been found in both localities unless after the alleged exhumation of the skeletal remains in barangay Monterico, Baybay, Leyte on June 27, 2000, the same were moved and transferred to Mt. Sapang Dako, Inopacan, Leyte on August 26, 2006,” the petition stated.

The petitioners also pointed out that the prosecution witnesses, from their admissions, were staying or under the custody of the military. “Hence, it may be said that the affidavits were issued by them under some form of duress, or tainted by promises of immunity from prosecution, leniency, recruitment as military asset, or outright bribery,” the petition read.

One of the witnesses, Glecerio Roluna, was arrested on June 4, 2006 by armed men believed to be elements of the 43rd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army based in Brgy. Hibod-hibod, Sogod, Southern Leyte.

No forensic evidence

The petition claimed that public prosecutor Vivero misled the judge and the parties by implying that the identities of the victims have been ascertained through forensic evidence. In his resolution date February 16, 2007, Vivero stated that matches were made after exhaustive crime investigation of the case by a team of forensic experts.

The petitioners countered this, saying no supporting evidence or any substantial evidence was proffered by the police and the military to prove that the bodies of the 15 alleged victims, or any one of them, were among the skeletal remains found in Mt. Sapang Dako, Inopacan, Leyte.

The petition cited the initial specialist report of the forensic team of the medico-legal division of the PNP crime laboratory ,which stated that “absolute identification could not be established at this time.” The said report also recommended further studies, activities, and examinations to confirm identity and determine the time window of death.

No sufficient basis

The petitioners also asserted that Judge Ephrem Abando of the Leyte Regional Trial Court-Branch 18 had no sufficient basis for a finding of probable cause for the indictment and issuance of warrants of arrest.

The petition stated that Ocampo was detained at the time of the incident. The petition also stated that of the voluminous documents submitted by the complainants as their so-called evidence, the name of Randall Echanis was mentioned only once. The name of Rafael Baylosis, meanwhile, was mentioned by three prosecution witnesses who averred that Baylosis is one of the members of the CPP Central Committee who ordered the alleged mass killings.

Hernandez political doctrine applies

The petitioners said that the Hernandez political doctrine applies in the case.

The Hernandez doctrine became part of Philippine jurisprudence when, in 1956, the Supreme Court ruled in the case People of the Philippines vs. Hernandez that a person who commits a political offense could be charged with rebellion but not with common crimes such as murder, arson, robbery, etc. It ruled that the act of rebellion would already include and absorb these crimes.

At the time the murder charges were filed, a rebellion case was pending with the Regional Trial Court of Makati. The rebellion charges were dismissed on June 1, 2007. The petitioners asserted that the multiple murder charges be dismissed.

Criminalization of dissent

In an interview with Bulatlat.com, Ocampo expressed concern that the recent SC decision would lead to the weakening of the Hernandez political doctrine.

He noted that under the Aquino administration, there is a trend of filing fabricated criminal charges against activists. (http://bulatlat.com)

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