MANILA - At 79 years old, Satur Ocampo believes the government is no longer interested in having him killed.
Visibly thinner than when he was a Bayan Muna representative and now walking with a slight limp, Ocampo says he is ready for anything the government will hurl against him. After all, he survived torture under the Marcos regime.
“Sa pinakabatayan sinasabi ko na mula’t mula pa maaasahan ko lahat ng gagawin nila at ako’y nagpapasalamat hindi ako pinatay. Di ko naman inaasahan na papatayin pa nila ako at this point. Pero kung labanan na ganiyan nakahanda naman akong harapin,” Ocampo said as he sat down with ABS-CBN News recently for an exclusive interview amid a police manhunt against him and fellow progressive leaders.
(I have already said that from the very start, I expect them to do everything they could and I am actually thankful that they haven’t killed me. Although I am not expecting them to kill me at this point. But if they want a legal fight then I am ready to face that.)
Together with National Anti-Poverty Commission Secretary Liza Maza, former Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano and former Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño, Ocampo is facing a double-murder case in Nueva Ecija for alleged involvement in the deaths of Jimmy Peralta in 2003 and Carlito Bayudang in 2004.
Ocampo said the accusations are preposterous.
“Ang hirap paniwalaan 'yun. Public figures kami nun…Pupunta kami sa Nueva Ecija at tatawagin namin ang leaders ng underground organization doon?” he said. “Para ano? Eh kasi 'yung mga victims karaniwang mga citizens 'yun. Anong habol namin sa mga taong yan?”
(Their claims are hard to believe. We were public figures at that time…Are they saying we went to Nueva Ecija and gathered the leaders of the underground organization? For what? The victims were ordinary citizens? What would we gain from having them killed?)
He said the 12-year-old case is part of a series of trumped-up charges filed to bolster an Arroyo administration-backed rebellion case against the so-called “Batasan 6” during the presidency of the now House Speaker.
The rebellion case, which was eventually dismissed by the Supreme Court, forced Ocampo, Maza, Mariano, Casiño and former Bayan Muna Representative Joel Virador to seek protective custody of the House of Representatives while the late Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran was detained in a hospital.
But now, Ocampo and the others are no longer legislators who can seek sanctuary at the House.
“Talagang nakakapagod din naman. At siyempre may epekto ngayon sa pamilya ko lalo na may mga apo ako ngayon,” he said.
(It has really been tiring. Of course, it also has an effect on my family, especially now that I have grandchildren.)
Ocampo’s question now is why the case has been revived and why they have to be arrested.
“Ano 'yung makukuha nila kung ikukulong pa ako? Kahit sinuman sa amin. Puwede namang ipagpatuloy ang case basta pabilisin lang,” he said. “Labing dalawang taon na ang nagdaan ngayon pa lang binubuhay. Ang isang paghuhusga na rin sa system of justice 'yan eh.”
(What can they achieve by locking me up? Or any of us? The case could proceed as long as they expedite the process. It’s been 12 years and now they are reviving it. It’s also a reflection of our justice system.)
According to Ocampo’s lawyer, Judge Evelyn Turla of the Palayan Regional Trial Court previously expressed her opinion that there is not enough probable cause to hear the case.
But instead of dismissing the case, she asked the Prosecutor’s Office to produce more evidence. Ocampo’s group then asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the case because of lack of evidence. It was only last year that the high court remanded the case to the lower court for further proceedings.
For now, Ocampo does not want to attribute the revival of the case to former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who recently assumed the post of House Speaker.
“Maaaring nakalimutan na niya 'yun. Pero ngayong sumulpot na mayroon pa pala 'yan, babantayan ko rin anong reaksyon niya o magiging reaksyon niya diyan,” he said.
(She may have already forgotten about the case. But now that it has been revived, I will also observe her reaction.)
However, he believes that the current political climate sees the joining of three political powers that have filed cases against him — subversion under the Marcos regime, rebellion under Arroyo and the terrorist listing by the Duterte administration.
“Nagco-combine ngayon sa administrasyon na ito 'yung tatlong political powers na 'yan. Nakahanda naman ako na harapin. Malinis ang konsensiya ko na haharap sa publiko at sabihin mula kay Marcos, Arroyo at Duterte mali sila sa kanilang ginagawa na sinisikap sikilin ang boses ng mga nagsasabi ng katotohanan, na nag-gigiit na ipagtanggol ang karapatan ng mamamayan,” he said.
(The three political powers have combined under this administration. I am ready to face them. I can face the public with a clear conscience and say that from Marcos, Arroyo and now Duterte they have been mistaken in their quest to stifle the voices of those who say the truth, those who persevere to defend the rights of the people.)
For now, Ocampo wants to focus on his defense.
His lawyer has insisted that it is unjust for police to call for their arrest on supposed trumped up charges.
Nevertheless, lawyer Rachel Pastores said: “'Yung clients namin are taking the necessary precautions to ensure their safety and protect their rights, definitely they will face the charges against them.”
Ocampo hopes that the judge will eventually make the right decision following the filing of their motion for reconsideration.
“Hopefully maghari sa puso at kaisipan ng judge na ma-evaluate 'yang mabuti,” he said.
(Hopefully justice will reign in the heart and mind of the judge so she could properly evaluate the case)