“We fervently hope this trial will end with the attainment of justice for our comrades, and not with the cleansing of the names of those responsible for this heinous crime.” – relatives and colleagues in the labor movement
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — Workers led by labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) marked the 26th year of the abduction, torture and murder of labor leader Rolando Olalia and labor organizer Leonor Alay-ay Nov 13 with a gathering and a protest action calling for justice for the two.
Twenty-six years after the dead, mutilated bodies of the two were found in Antipolo, Rizal, the court hearings for the Olalia-Alay-ay double murder case has just begun this year, following decades of legal roadblocks from the accused who are known members of ultra-right soldiers’ group within the Philippine Armed Forces.
Workers and activists from various sectors discussed in a forum the long-delayed updates on the murder case, as well as the violations of trade-union and human rights by the Benigno Aquino III government. They met at the office of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), the umbrella alliance of progressive organizations of which Olalia was vice-chairman at the time of his death.
After an afternoon of discussion, the workers and activists marched to a corner of East Avenue to hold a protest calling for justice for their comrades.
“We mark the 26th year of Ka Lando and Ka Leonor’s deaths with militant calls for justice for our dear comrades. We are deeply revolted that justice has been denied our comrades for 26 years now,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog, KMU chairman.
“It is proof of the rottenness of the country’s justice system that ultra-rightists who worked to topple the government at the time remain unpunished for abducting, torturing and killing a well-respected labor leader and his aide,” he said. Labog vowed that now that the trial for the Olalia-Alay-ay double murder is finally underway, they will heighten their vigilance and intensify the fight for justice. “We will do everything in our capacity to make sure that justice is attained this time,” he said.
Investigation since the late eighties up to now pointed to the likelihood that Olalia and Alay-ay had been murdered as part of right-wing military group Rebolusyonaryong Alyansang Makabansa’s “Oplan God Save the Queen.” It aimed to destabilize and topple the Cory Aquino government in the 80s.
In fact, in the various appeals and motions filed over the years by some of the accused – in effect also impeding the murder trial— the accused wanted to lump the murder case with their other crimes which had been given amnesty by the government.
“Now that the trial is in progress, we are constantly reminded that it was delayed for this long because the suspects in the case have powerful backers in the military and the government. Some of the suspects being arrested are being given special treatment, put under military and not police custody,” Labog said.
The murder trial had started hearing the testimony of one of two witnesses. Only two of 13 accused are in government custody – the rest are still at large. The police has not yet arrested the others even if a police superintendent had admitted they are “in communication” with the other accused.
“We are calling on the courts to be fair, we are calling on the prosecution lawyers to be steadfast, and we are calling on workers and the public to be vigilant,” Labog said. The labor group prayed that the attention being given by the mainstream media on the double murder case will continue. Labog echoed the messages uttered by the survivors of the labor leader: “We fervently hope this trial will end with the attainment of justice for our comrades, and not with the cleansing of the names of those responsible for this heinous crime.”
According to representatives of the two accused currently in government custody, and according also to the Rizal police who hold in custody the lower-ranked accused, these two had been persuaded to surrender “so the case could move on” and so they could “remove the cloud over their names.”