Lawyer welcomes court decision junking murder cases vs. 'Makabayan 4'

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 13 2018 09:56 PM

MANILA - The lawyer of the "Makabayan 4" on Monday welcomed a Nueva Ecija regional trial court's decision junking the murder cases and warrants of arrest issued against the four former legislators.

"Masaya kami doon sa naging finding ng court at natutuwa kami dahil nakita rin niya 'yung fairness noong aming posisyon na hindi talaga makatarungan na ituloy 'yung case laban doon sa apat dahil wala naman talagang ebidensya na maglilink sa kanila," Atty. Rachel Pastores said on Monday.

National Anti-Poverty Commission Chair Sec. Liza Maza, former representatives Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casiño and Rafael Mariano were accused of allegedly ordering the killing of former NPA rebels Carlito Bayudang and Ricardo Peralta during a meeting among CPP/NPA/NDF leaders in Central Luzon in August 2000.

Howeverm Judge Trese Wenceslao, acting presiding judge of Palayan City Regional Trial Court Branch 40, in an eight-page decision dated August 8, 2018, found the affidavits of the witnesses inconsistent and incredible.

Wenceslao noted that the statements of two witnesses had conflicts as to the number and the names of gunmen who allegedly killed Bayudang while a police spot report attributed the death of Peralta to a "hit-and-run" vehicular incident. 

The result of the ballistics examination of the bullets recovered from the crime scene also showed they did not belong to the gun of the self-confessed gunman-turned-witness.

The court also found "shallow" the alleged support of Bayudang and Peralta for partylist group Akbayan as the motivation for the killings. Akbayan is a rival of Bayan Muna partylist, to whom the Makabayan 4 has ties. 

The court also noted that the statements of the 3 prosecution witnesses were almost similar, executed on almost the same dates, and signed and subscribed before the same witnesses and administering officer.

"Such similarity only make it appear that that their affidavits are possibly contrived for it is highly incredulous for three individuals to be able to recall the same events and arrange their thoughts in the same manner, and identify all the participants in the alleged meeting, considering that the same happened way back August 2000," the court said. 

The Makabayan 4 have maintained that the murder charges were baseless.

"This is a trumped-up charge. This is part of a political persecution. So I hope, with the dismissal of this case, and also, itong recently, itong pagtatanggal sa pangalan ni Satur Ocampo doon sa proscription petition sa DOJ, sana ito na 'yung huli. Huli doon sa mga trumped-up na pwede i-file doon sa Makabayan 4 at hindi na sana maulit na gagamitin 'yung mga opisina, at ahensiya or instruments of the state, to continue persecuting them," Pastores said.

The court, however, did not find basis to rule that there was political persecution or harassment in the conduct of the preliminary examination, as the Makabayan 4 claimed.

The order dismissing the charges and junking the warrants of arrest only covers the Makabayan 4 but Pastores is confident it will apply to all other accused in the case.

"I think kung ganito 'yung klase ng evidence, it should apply to all...Kung hindi na talaga kapani-paniwala 'yung istorya at 'yung logic sa kanilang apat, at sila 'yung principal na target sa case na 'to, kung sa kanilang apat di na pumasa sa korte, what more dun sa iba na binanggit o isinama sa case," she said.