According to state witness Medardo Dumlao Barreto, they were assured that higher-ups from the Defense Department gave the go signal to abduct labor leader Rolando Olalia and companion Leonor Alay-ay.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – The testimony that waited 14 years before it was heard in court continued this Tuesday in Rizal, as state witness Medardo Dumlao Barreto picked up where he left off from his initial account last week.
In last week’s hearing Barreto had introduced to the court the special operations group or SOG under the Department of Defense. He told the court that as team leader of a group with the SOG, whose headquarters are in Camp Aguinaldo, he was “reporting directly to Col. Eduardo Kapunan,” the SOG’s commanding officer at the time.
Barreto told the court last week about the tasks of the SOG, which include intelligence gathering and national security. He then began recounting the circumstances covering the SOG’s ‘operations’ on labor leader Rolando Olalia in late 1986.
Before health reasons forced him to stop his testimony last week, he had reached the part where his team and another team under the SOG had combined to “finish the job,” as the witness quoted Kapunan as telling him in a briefing. The witness then shared that it was the leader of the other team who told him the operation was about labor leader Rolando Olalia. His testimony was cut short as he began recounting the combined teams’ conduct from then on up to the morning of November 12, 1986.
Labor leader Rolando Olalia and labor organizer Leonor Alay-ay were found dead on November 13th of 1986. They disappeared the day before. Nearly 26 years since then, the trial of those accused as responsible for their abduction, torture and murder began only this year. And this was just the second court hearing for the testimony of one of two state witnesses.
How the defense department’s SOG abducted Olalia
On the morning of Nov 12, 1986, Barreto said the two teams from the SOG decided to go to Kamayan-Saisaki restaurant along Edsa to check out Rolando Olalia. Members of the SOG had read in the papers that he was set to address ‘Unilab people’ in that restaurant on that day, and as planned, they set out to do a reconnaissance.
With Barreto were Sgt. Edger B. Sumido, Sgt. Filomeno Maligaya and Sgt. Rodolfo Sabalza. Barretto was tasked to drive their vehicle, a cream-colored Mitsubishi Lancer with plate number BBB 678.
They had lunch at the restaurant “like ordinary customers,” except that, according to the witness, at one time Sumido went to the second floor to “positively identify” Olalia. When Sumido returned to their table, Sabalza and Maligaya also “went up to positively identify Olalia.”
As Olalia’s meeting with the ‘Unilab people’ was about to end, Barreto went out of the restaurant to their vehicle. He said Sabalza would come to him at the parking lot from time to time to tell him of the developments as Olalia prepared to leave.
State witness Barreto said Maligaya and Sumido tailed Olalia as he got out of the restaurant and got into his car. Then the two (Maligaya and Sumido) got into the vehicle with Barreto.
“After Ka Lando’s vehicle passed us, that’s when we started our surveillance of him,” said Barreto.
He said Sumido called someone on the radio, asking him to “come to our position on Edsa.” Barreto said Sumido received a call telling him “We’re already in position.”
From one vehicle with four SOG members, other vehicles had arrived, but the state witness said “they did not inform us of the vehicle they were riding in.” He noticed though that a dirty white pickup had a license plate with a number near to theirs – its plate number was BBB 567.
They followed and kept surveillance on Olalia the whole day, with five to six vehicles between his and that of Barreto, who said ‘the people of Sumido were the ones directly behind Olalia’s.’ Sumido transferred to another vehicle.
At around 5 p.m. of Nov 12, 1986 the labor leader entered the compound of Ajinomoto, the producer of monosodium glutamate, in Pasig. From Barreto’s testimony, they had been monitoring developments through their radio; Sumido was in another vehicle, giving them feedback via radio. When Olalia entered Ajinomoto, the SOG people “established observation points” along the road and “waited for Sumido’s order.”
Around 6 p.m. of Nov 12, 1986, “Sumido informed us that they received a new command from Capt. (Ricardo) Dicon over the radio.” As told by Sumido, the order was to seize the subject.
“We decided to confirm from Capt. Dicon himself – I called him myself through the radio to confirm the order,” Barreto told the court this Tuesday. He said that from this call, Dicon not only confirmed the order, “he told us not to worry, those in the higher-ups know of it.”
Higher ups knew the planned abduction
By higher-ups, Barreto said, he believed it must have come from Kapunan, (Gringo) Honasan or Oscar Legaspi.
Before Sumido presented his plan how to seize Olalia and companion Alay-ay, he called first “his men so he would say it just once,” Barreto said.
They planned to waylay and get Olalia “at the first clean opportunity.” Sumido briefed Barreto and Sgts. Eduardo Bueno, Freddie Sumagaysay, Cpl. Gene Paris, Florante Viana, Amado Pago and Fernando Casanova.
Barreto said he was assigned to drive the Toyota Land Cruiser with Sabalza, armed with a Galil, an Israeli-made assault rifle. At the backseat was Viana. Their vehicle was to cut in front of Olalia’s vehicle to block him.
Gil Galicia, Sumido, Casanova, Sumagaysay and Paris (tasked to get Olalia’s driver) were to ride the dirty white Mitsubishi Lancer, which was tasked to block the rear of Olalia’s car when they boxed it in.
“Sumido assigned Maligaya to drive the cream Lancer with plate number BBB 678, with Bueno and Pago,” Barreto said. Bueno, he added, was to assist Sabalza when they seize Olalia from where he was seated.
After Sumido told them of the plan, the SOG members then realigned themselves and went to the vehicles they were assigned to.
Around 7 p.m. of Nov 12, 1986, Olalia’s vehicle left Ajinomoto, followed by the SOG men in different vehicles. Olalia’s vehicle was boxed in and waylaid at Valle Verde 2 going to Julia Vargas in Ortigas. It took the SOG men less than two minutes, the state witness said. “Things happened very fast I did not see what they were doing but I knew they followed what Sumido said.”
‘Change of plan’
After that the three vehicles added Olalia’s car to their ‘convoy’ when they drove away from the area. Gene Paris reportedly drove Olalia’s car. Along the way to the SOG (Special Ops Group) base camp in Camp Aguinaldo, Barreto said, Sumido advised them of a change in the plan.
Instead of heading to Camp Aguinaldo along Edsa, their convoy went to a ‘safehouse’ in no. 79 in 10th Ave. in Murphy, Cubao, Quezon City. There, Master Sgt. Juan Matango opened the gate to them. Barreto described a safehouse as: “it’s a house we use when we have an operation.”
The SOG members immediately went inside to the conference room, where, according to the state witness, Col. Oscar Legaspi, a senior aide-de-camp of then Defense Sec. Juan Ponce Enrile was waiting with Maj. Noe Wong, a junior aide-de-camp, Capt. Ricardo Dicon and Arillo, who, as far as the state witness said, he knew at the time as the public information officer of the Ministry of Defense.