Justice At Inupacan

Date posted on April 3, 2007

This article was written by my dear friend, Jean. Actually, 1Lt Jean Alia Yasin Robles. She works as Operations Chief of the the AFP Public Information Office.

I edited it for her (precariously delaying me from my own deadline). I rarely write anything about current affairs, so I’m posting it here. I thought it refreshing to read an article like this about the Satur Ocampo incident. Maybe you’d see what I mean and think so, too.

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JUSTICE AT INUPACAN

Aling Rosa (not her real name) had lost hope in ever seeing her son again. She was proven wrong one Sunday morning when they had their unexpected reunion in Inopacan, Leyte. Only this time, it was not the lively fifteen-year old Pedro who greeted her, but his skeletal remains. She immediately knew it was Pedro. She could still remember the shirt and trousers he wore the last time she saw him twenty-one years ago, before he disappeared with his friends, accused by the CPP- NPA of being government spies. She was near hysteria when the PNP forensics showed her the broken skull and ribs of her son. It only implied the pain he experienced in the hands of the insurgents. Her Pedro would have been a father to her grandchildren by now.

Pedro’s disappearance in the late 1980’s happened at the time when the Communist Party of the Philippines was conducting a massive campaign to get rid of suspected infiltrators in their ranks. They were then experiencing tactical losses due to the government’s intensified drive against insurgency. Kampanyang Ahos in Mindanao resulted to the death of 800 suspected deep penetration agents (DPAs) and the arrest of 1,500 others. In Southern Tagalog, around 100 CPP-NPA elements were killed by their comrades. In Leyte, “Operation Linis” was implemented, resulting to the death of more than 400 persons. All in all, more than 1,500 people were brutally murdered by the CPP-NPA. This operation did not only include party members but also innocent civilians who were uncooperative with the movement.

Aling Rosa suspects that her son had been recruited by the CPP-NPA, later becoming a casualty of their purging operations following accusations of being a government spy. Former members of the CPP-NPA who have surrendered to the AFP corroborate her suspicion, citing the communist party’s continuing recruitment of minors as young as twelve years old, in complete disregard of International Humanitarian Laws. Apparently, these children are brainwashed to hate the government and taught to fire guns and kill soldiers and policemen.

Despite their loss, there is consolation for the relatives of these victims. Last March 6, 2007, Judge Ephrem Abando of the Regional Trial Court of Hilongos, Leyte issued a warrant of arrest to Jose Maria Sison, Satur Ocampo, et. al. for charges of multiple murder of the fifteen people identified among the 67 skeletal remains unearthed at Mt. Sapang Dako, Kaulisihan, Inopacan, Leyte. Finallly, Aling Rosa can look forward to finding justice for the death of her beloved Pedro.

The defendants raised two major issues in their counter-affidavit. First, Satur Ocampo denied that he was in Leyte at that time of the killings, saying that he was then being held in maximum security detention. However, testimonies from witnesses were submitted to the court alleging Ocampo’s presence in Leyte. He was supposedly there to oversee the implementation of OPLAN Venereal Disease, which the killings of suspected DPAs) and to directly order the execution of at least one of the victims. One of the witnesses even said that Central Committee member Satur Ocampo personally came to Southern Leyte sometime in 1985 to meet with CPP Regional Committee members on the implementation of the CPP directive. The witness maintains that he saw Satur Ocampo give orders to Exusperado Lloren in 1985 to execute in his presence a certain Juanita Aviola, one of the identified bodies from the mass grave in Leyte.

Furthermore, a review of newspaper archives from that year in fact shows that Ocampo escaped from government custody during the National Press Club elections on May 5, 1985, and that he was a fugitive of the law until 1987, when he was finally taken back in custody. It was during this period of flight between 1985 and 1987 that the time of killings was established.

In their counter-affidavit, the defendants also invoked the prescription period for murder cases since the crime happened more than 20 years ago. Jose Ma. Sison even went as far as accusing Judge Abando of ignorance of Philippine laws in his article, “Charge of Multiple Murder in Leyte Is A Patent Lie.” However, the Article 91 of the Revised Penal Code provides that the period of prescription of an offense commences from the day on which the crime is discovered by the offended party, the authorities and their agents. Furthermore, the term prescription shall not run when the offender is absent from the Philippines as in the case of Sison who has resided in the Netherlands since 1986. As such, the court found that prescription as grounds for dismissal of the case is unavailing to the accused since the gravesite at Inopacan, Leyte was discovered and unearthed only on August 26, 2006.

In his interviews to the media, Ocampo accused the government of fabricating the mass grave, claiming that the military dug up the graves and planted the skeletal remains. However, material evidences submitted by PNP forensic experts disprove his contention. Combined with sworn testimonies executed by relatives of the victims, former ranking members of the CPP-NPA in Southern Leyte who participated in the abduction of the victims, and former ranking members of the CPP-NPA Regional Committee of Leyte who attested to the Central Committee directive for the investigation and execution of suspected infiltrators and informers within CPP-NPA ranks, Judge Abando found enough probable cause in the murder charges, resulting in the issuance of the aforementioned arrest warrant.

In a video uploaded in a public internet site, Ocampo claimed that the charge was merely employed to derail the electoral campaign of progressive party list groups. In response, the State prosecutor pointed out that the charge had been under the court’s consideration for six months since the third quarter of 2006. After the discovery of the gravesite, the case was initiated via a complaint filed by the relatives of the victims in September 2006, which was later filed before the Leyte Provincial Prosecutor’s Office on October 17, 2006. Hence, the allegation of the case being politically motivated is unfounded.

Ocampo also supplements their defense by saying that they can no longer be charged with crimes connected with rebellion occurring before 1986, invoking the general amnesty issued by the Aquino Administration. However, Sison and Ocampo never expressed intention to avail of such amnesty, having failed the filing appropriate applications required by the said presidential order.

Pursuant to the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, the various defendants in the case, including Sison and Ocampo, were issued and served subpoenas asking for their counter-affidavits and including those from their witnesses. Satur Ocampo submitted his counter-affidavit denying his involvement in the alleged series of killings. Thus, their right to due process and the rule of law, as guaranteed by our Constitution, was respected and upheld, contrary to allegations coming from the accused.

It has been more than twenty years since relatives and loved ones lost the victims found in the Inupacan mass grave. But with the issuance of these arrest warrants, hope may not be lost. Aling Rosa finally has reason to believe there may be no prescription for justice after all.