Witness recounts ‘clean-up’, cover-up of Olalia, Alay-ay murders by soldiers

“When Gil Galicia was released from the custody of the crime investigators of Camp Crame, Col. Kapunan talked to me and asked ‘Di pa ba pwedeng iligpit iyan?’ (Can he not be silenced?)” – state witness Medardo Dumlao Baretto


MANILA – After state witness Medardo Dumlao Baretto had recounted in court, in three hearings, his knowledge on the abduction and murder of labor leader Rolando Olalia and Leonor Alay-ay by state security forces, his testimony this Tuesday November 27 largely dwelt on the aftermath of what they call in the military as “the Olalia operations.”

Baretto said “the group became very disorganized when (then) Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile resigned.” Baretto shared the immediate activities of the Special Operations Group under the defense department after a vehicle with plate number BBB678 came out in the news in 1986. It was the plate number of one of the vehicles the Special Operations Group had used in casing, abducting and bringing Olalia and Alay-ay to Antipolo, Rizal, where they were later found dead on Nov 13, 1986.

But the presentation of state witness Baretto was repeatedly interrupted as lawyers for the accused retired Col. Eduardo Kapunan objected to the “manner of questioning” by the prosecutor. Kapunan’s lawyers objected aggressively that at one point, lawyer Lorna Kapunan objected even as the prosecutor was just beginning to phrase a question.

From L to R: Lawyer Lorna Kapunan, accused former Sgt. Desiderio Perez (in orange) and accused former Lt. Col. Eduardo Kapunan (in blue), at court hearing Oct 24 (File Photo, Oct 2012 Olalia murder hearing/ bulatlat.com)

Private prosecutor and labor lawyer Remigio Saladero asked the court, at one point, to request the defense lawyers to observe courtesy. Lawyer Lorna Kapunan responded that “courtesy should give way to lack of time.” Kapunan’s lawyers were awaiting their chance to cross-examine state witness Baretto and for their petition for bail to be heard in court.

The Rizal Trial Court Branch 98 presided by Judge Maria Consejo Gengos-Ignalaga gave the case a more frequent schedule of hearings, twice this month and thrice next month (Dec 5, Dec 10 and Dec 14).

‘Clean up’ operations

Mostly, the defense lawyers raised objections while Baretto was telling the court about Kapunan’s orders for the cleanup or cover-up of “what needed cleanup,” as Kapunan himself had reportedly told the group in the immediate aftermath of “the Olalia operations.”

Kapunan’s lawyers also made repeated objections when the state witness was trying to explain to the court why he had decided to leave the military-based group the Rebolusyonaryong Alyansang Makabansa (RAM) and, in 1998, apply as a state witness on the double murder of Olalia and Alay-ay. Based on his testimony, he was compelled to apply for witness protection when allegedly he himself became Kapunan’s target for ‘clean-up’ or the operations to conceal the truth behind the Olalia-Alay-ay double murder.

The RAM is widely known as the ultra-rightist group responsible for a series of bloody coup d’état in the late 1980s. Kapunan and the other accused former soldiers in the Olalia-Alay-ay case were mostly associated with RAM. For years, the accused had also cited the coup amnesty they received as justification for evading arrest and delaying the trial over the Olalia-Alay-ay double murder.

Kapunan’s lawyers told the court that they disliked the prosecutor’s manner of questioning, describing it either as “leading” or “lacking materiality.” Most were sustained by Judge Maria Consejo Gengos-Ignalaga who tasked the Olalia lawyers to either lay the basis of their questioning or “rephrase it in a way that is not objectionable to the defense.”

In between objections, lawyer Saladero managed to ask some questions which elicited from the state witness how Col. Kapunan had not only ordered their team of soldiers to “clean up the dirt left in the wake of the Olalia operations,” as Kapunan himself told them in a meeting.

Later, Kapunan had also allegedly ordered the murder of some members of the team (Baretto called them ‘Team 56’ in this week’s hearing). The murder was allegedly part of efforts to conceal the said soldiers’ responsibility over the Olalia murder. In fact, it was the cover-up that had prompted Baretto to leave RAM and turn state witness in 1998, after he thought he himself was to be silenced or killed.

Efforts to cover up the crime seemed to have continued, based on Baretto’s testimony. In 2009, despite his being under the Witness Protection Program, Baretto was compelled to recant his first sworn statement.

As this was being discussed in court this week, the public prosecutors from the Department of Justice suddenly cited national security and asked both sides for a few minutes of closed-door meeting. But this is going ahead of the story. The following is how it unfolded heatedly in court this week:

‘Take care of our secrets. If not, the sin of one is the sin of all’

This, according to Baretto, was what Col. Eduardo Kapunan had told the soldiers who had worked on the Olalia operations in a meeting called by Kapunan shortly “before we were thoroughly separated” from each other. The state witness said this was said at a meeting in Kapunan’s quarters in Camp Aguinaldo.

“Before our meeting was over, Col. Kapunan told me to take care of our group because the fight is not yet over,” Baretto told the court this Tuesday.

“It is automatic for someone like me – his sergeant – that I take care of our group. Till a decade had passed and we were transferred to the Department of Justice,” Baretto said.

More than a decade since they did “the job,” Baretto told the court he applied for the Witness Protection Program in January 1998. He explained to the court that he decided to leave RAM and Col. Kapunan, “after I believe and when I found basis that even I was being planned to be killed.”

Amid repeated objections by the defense lawyers to what they call as “leading” questions of the prosecutor, Baretto tried to tell the court his bases for believing that he was up for silencing or murder.

“Events happened and because of that, I believed that I was already marked to be killed,” Baretto said in Filipino.

“When Gil Galicia was released from the custody of the crime investigators of Camp Crame, Col. Kapunan talked to me and asked ‘Di pa ba pwedeng iligpit iyan?’ (Can he not be silenced?)” Baretto recounted.

Gil Galicia was the man who bought the ‘hot’ vehicle with plate number BBB678 from an asset called ‘Ulupong’ (Snake) in Region II. This, state witness Baretto said, was what Sgt. Sabalza reported to Col. Kapunan at a meeting he called when the vehicle was reported in the news following the Olalia-Alay-ay murder.

Baretto added, “I told Col. Kapunan: ‘Can we do that? Gil Galicia’s wife and mother also knew of the Olalia job.”

Baretto said that if Kapunan were to order the murder of Galicia to silence him, he would have to also kill Galicia’s wife and mother. He said Kapunan did not pursue the issue anymore.

The second event or reason that prompted Baretto to believe that he was about to be killed, too, was the killing of Master Sergeant Dionisio Ramirez whom Baretto identified as “part of our group.”

The mention of Ramirez occasioned another volley of objections from the defense, who argued that until this hearing, the witness had not mentioned Ramirez. This, in turn, prompted a search on stacks upon stacks of documents and affidavits in court which the prosecutors said are already marked as exhibits, but which the defense questioned. The affidavit mentioning Ramirez was located in ‘Volume 1.’

In this week’s hearing, the 1998 sworn statement where witness Baretto said Sgt. Ramirez was murdered as part of clean-up was marked provisionally as one of the exhibits, subject to defense lawyers’ examination of the original statement.

Witness Protection Program?

Another part of Baretto’s testimony that also elicited fierce objections from Kapunan’s defense panel was the part about Baretto’s “second affidavit.” Lawyer Kapunan said they might even declare a mistrial. It was while discussing this that the public prosecutor also called for a brief closed-door meeting with both sides and the judge, as he invoked ‘national security.’

Col. Kapunan had allegedly “demanded” in 2009 from witness Baretto that he sign a second affidavit. “They need the second affidavit so the first affidavit will be void,” Baretto said in Filipino.

Baretto admitted he signed this said second affidavit at the request/demand of former sergeant, who became mayor, Filomeno Maligaya and Col. Kapunan. Citing his weakened physical condition (he had just suffered a stroke) and his “not good” relationship with the director of the Witness Protection Program, he explained in court: “I was not in a position to oppose/turn down their demand. So for as long as I can, I strove to prolong the time before I signed and gave it to them.”

The four-page affidavit was drafted by a lawyer named Apolonio Padua, reviewed and approved by ex-Mayor Maligaya and Col. Kapunan, the state witness said.

Prosecutor Saladero read one paragraph of that statement in court and asked Baretto what it meant.

“From what I understand, this is a recantation of my first affidavit,” Baretto replied.

Asked if he understood the entire statement in 2009, when he signed it, Baretto said “I did not fully understand it, being the language of the lawyer.”

Baretto also said that when Col. Kapunan “went down to my level, I began to think that there was a problem.”

In 2009, when he was asked to sign a second affidavit, the Supreme Court had finally thrown away the amnesty excuse cited by the accused for the Olalia-Alay-ay double murder. The high court also remanded the case for trial in Rizal.

Baretto said he has no intention of leaving the double murder case.

He signed the second affidavit alone, without witness, and also not in front of the lawyer who notarized it and whom he said he does not know. The Olalia prosecutors said they learned of this second affidavit only after the pre-trial.

The state witness told the court that even with this second affidavit, “I am not turning my back on my first affidavit.” He affirmed and confirmed in court his testimony about the abduction and murder of Olalia and Alay-ay by soldiers. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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