There were times the court agreed to not pursue some of the offered proofs and claims of the state witness.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – The trial of former soldiers accused in the murder of labor leader Rolando Olalia and driver Leonor Alay-ay is circling some military secrets or “confidential” matters. These matters concern the state policy toward suspected communists in legal peoples’ organizations, and military presence in civilian branches of the government even under the people-power-installed Cory Aquino administration.
In the past two hearings this February, the workings of some influential elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines were discussed as the state witness tried to detail the how’s and why’s of the murder of Olalia. But further examination of these military workings was barred from time to time by the lawyer of former Air Force Col. Eduardo Kapunan, who cited confidentiality. There were times the court agreed to not pursue some of the offered proofs and claims of the state witness.
Still, the recent hearings further showed how under the defense department at the time of Olalia’s murder, members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine Constabulary, who were also members of Reform the Armed Forces of the Philippines (RAM), were in a Special Operations Group (SOG) tasked to do surveillance resulting in apprehension of suspected communists and their agents.
Warrantless arrests, ultra-rightist soldiers in the justice department
Baretto had been asked by lawyer Kapunan in last month’s hearings: Your function was not only surveillance but to catch those elements connected with or considered as CPP-NPA. He had answered, “yes, ma’am, before they’re apprehended we conduct surveillance.”
Asked this month how the SOG apprehended elements of CPP-NPA at the time, Baretto disclosed he doesn’t remember their group serving warrants of arrest to those they apprehend.
“We made those apprehensions without warrants of arrest,” said witness Medardo Dumlao Baretto. He said warrantless arrests were common under then Col. (Eduardo) Kapunan. The defense objected to discussing this.
Before serving as “augmentation team” to other SOG teams to “finish the Olalia job,” Baretto said his team had been doing surveillance operations on then labor secretary Bobbit Sanchez.
Sanchez was one of those tagged as leftist or left-leaning by ultra-rightist soldiers who launched bloody coups d’état in the late 80s. They pressured the first Aquino government to remove suspected leftists in the government.
Aside from former Col. Kapunan, further revelations in the murder of Olalia threaten to implicate now Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senator Gringo Honasan. Enrile was defense minister at the time, Honasan was acknowledged as the commanding officer of other soldiers who participated in “the Olalia job,” or the abduction and murder of Olalia and Alay-ay in 1986.
Preventing more disclosures
State witness Medardo Dumlao Barreto, former operative under Kapunan from 80s to 90s, volunteered to bring to the court the notes he had made from his 2009 series of meetings with Col. Kapunan. These meetings had resulted in the witness recanting his first affidavit that had implicated Kapunan et al in Olalia’s murder.
But when the murder trial finally began in 2012, the witness repudiated this recantation in court, explaining he had only signed it as protection against threats to his life from Kapunan.
Baretto said his “built-in” fear of Kapunan began when Kapunan ordered them to kill one of their fellow operatives in “the Olalia job,” a certain Ramirez whom he said was about to divulge to investigators what he knew.
“I know what he (Col. Kapunan) was capable of doing,” Baretto told the court.
Lawyer Kapunan had repeatedly asked the court to strike this revelation off the record, saying the trial was not about Ramirez, but at least one statement of the state witness about Kapunan ordering them to kill this Ramirez had been allowed.
While Kapunan’s lawyer and sister-in-law, Lorna Kapunan, was grilling the state witness on the matter of his recantation – which could have let Kapunan off the hook – she accused Baretto again of getting payoffs from former Col. Kapunan in exchange for that recantation. But when the witness offered to let the court take a look at what transpired in Baretto’s meetings with Col. Kapunan in 2009, lawyer Lorna Kapunan declined to examine his proffered notes.
When Baretto was asked how Capt. Ricardo Dicon, the “operational command” in “the Olalia job,” was being given directives by the higher-ups that included Kapunan, Honasan and Legaspi, lawyer Kapunan barred discussion of it, saying it is “confidential.”
When the prosecutor asked the witness if there were other forms of “command” or “operational control” in the military or RAM at the time, and what these were, the defense likewise objected to discussing it. The court, for reasons it did not explain, agreed that it “doesn’t want to hear about other forms of control in the military operation.”