“Why put blame only to those whose hands actually pulled the trigger, or stuck the knife in, or gouged the eyes, or stuffed the mouths, and not those whose minds, (who) credible testimonies indubitably point to, had hatched the crime?”
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — “When my husband was alive, I didn’t work much. My husband worked for us. When he died, I had to work harder, do more overtime, to support my children,” said Feliciana Olalia, widow of labor leader Rolando Olalia, at a hearing at the Rizal Regional Trial Court two months ago. She and Olalia, better known as “Ka Lando,” have five children, all of whom were in college at the time the labor leader, with companion Leonor Alay-ay, were murdered in Rizal in the wee hours of November 13, 1986. With his death, wife Feliciana single-handedly supported the studies of all her children even as she took part in efforts to work for justice for the dead.
This Wednesday, November 13, the Olalia family, the labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), the lawyers’ group National Union of Public Lawyers (NUPL) and Karapatan alliance, marked the 27th death anniversary of Rolando Olalia and Leonor Alay-ay with a picket protest in front of Branch 98 of Rizal Regional Trial Court in Taytay. They asked the court to do its share in finally giving the murdered labor leaders justice, starting with reconsidering its ruling to allow former Lt. Col. Red Kapunan to post bail.
“When it’s being relived, it’s still painful,” said Olalia’s widow referring to the circumstances of her husband’s murder. “It hurts every time it is being discussed.”
But they were forced to discuss it over and over again, as her son, now a lawyer too, Rolando Rico Olalia, recounted the long legal process the family and labor and rights groups supporting them have to go through, from 1986 under then president Corazon Cojuangco Aquino to the present, under Cory’s son, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.
Up to now, most of the soldiers (most are now retired) accused of taking part in the abduction, torture and murder of the labor leaders in 1986 are still free. Worse, as the Kilusang Mayo Uno lamented, late last month, RTC Branch 98 Judge Ma. Consejo Gengos-Ignalaga allowed former Lt. Col. Red Kapunan to post a P400,000 ($9,193) bail on the basis that his role in the double murder case “has not been clearly established.” Kapunan was one of the leaders of the ultra-rightist Rebolusyonaryong Alyansang Makabansa (RAM), which, the state witnesses said, had planned the double murder as part of their failed coups in the late 80s. Also, during past hearings, Kapunan’s group in the military hierarchy was said to have been tasked as well to apprehend communists.
The 27th death anniversary of Olalia and Alay-ay coincided with the last day for the prosecutors to file a motion for reconsideration of the court’s decision to allow Kapunan to post bail. They submitted that appeal this Nov 13.
“It was 27 years ago to this day when rogue members of the military ruthlessly and calculatingly snatched, tortured and killed Rolando “Ka Lando” Olalia and Ka Leonor Alay-ay to make a political statement. The decision of the Antipolo court that discreetly handed down the ruling on bail for the accused retired military colonel last month makes a statement of its own, hopefully unwittingly: we’ll let the small fry suffer and the big fish go scot-free,” said a statement of the National Union of People’s Lawyers.
Lawyer Edre U. Olalia, NUPL secretary general, read their statement in Filipino in front of the picketing members of Kilusang Mayo Uno outside the court. “I don’t speak at rallies or stand on stage, I’m just a lawyer and I sometimes question if we still have some relevance in these times,” he said.
KMU has also said the court’s decision to allow Kapunan to post bail, while refusing the same to two men under him (former sergeants Desiderio Perez and Dennis Jabatan), “paves the way for Kapunan’s acquittal in the case, and the clearing of the names of senators Gringo Honasan and Juan Ponce Enrile, military officials more senior than Kapunan who are widely believed to have masterminded the double murder case in an effort to destabilize and then oust via a coup d’ etat the government of former Pres. Cory Aquino.”
“Why the decision found evidence of guilt strong against Sgts. Dennis Jabatan and Desiderio Perez, the men who participated in the surveillance, abduction and murder, and not against Kapunan, escapes logic, reason and experience,” lawyer Edre Olalia has said. He explained that the same state witnesses have pointed to Kapunan, at the time the intelligence officer of the RAM, as one of the higher-ups who sanctioned the killings. He also said that even Kapunan himself had admitted in court that he and his exclusive circle were then in charge of “dirty jobs”. Kapunan had led a so-called “special operations group” under then defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile.
“Why put blame only to those whose hands actually pulled the trigger, or stuck the knife, or gouged the eyes, or stuffed the mouths, and not those whose minds, (who) credible testimonies indubitably point to, had hatched the crime?” NUPL asked in a statement.
‘Olalia-Alay-ay: a classic case of all things awry in PH legal system’
“We’re grieving once again because the justice we’ve anticipated seemed to have been killed off last Oct. 29, when the person tagged as one of the masterminds in the murder of our beloved leader was allowed to post bail,” said Tony Pascual, secretary general of National Federation of Labor Unions (NAFLU), a federation affiliated with the KMU, one of the oldest in the Philippines and founded in 1957 by Ka Lando’s father, Felixberto Olalia.
“For 27 years we waited… when the case was reopened, our hopes were rekindled. But now, we were once again disappointed,” Pascual said during the picket in front of Rizal Regional Trial Court in Taytay.
The Olalia-Alay-ay double murder case is “a classic case of all things awry in the Philippine legal system,” the NUPL said, citing how the case has plodded through almost three decades of litigation; how it has been mired in controversial liabilities; how it has been checkered with resorting to technicalities; and how it has all been marked with impunity.
Ten other accused are still at large (11 now, after Kapunan posted bail Oct 29): Ret. Col. Oscar Legaspi, Filomeno Maligaya, Cirilo Almario, Jose Bacera, Fernando Casanova, Ricardo Dicon, Gilbert Galicia, Gene Paris, Freddie Sumagaysay, and Edger Sumido.
“As RAM leaders Juan Ponce-Enrile and Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan sit in the Senate, it seems to many that no force or legal prosecution can make them all account for their past antics,” said the NUPL.
NAFLU President Joselito Ustarez blames President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino for the Rizal Branch 98 court’s ruling that allowed “the big fish Kapunan” to post bail. He said Aquino has been “consistently soft” on the military’s human rights violations and on Honasan and Enrile “even as Aquino engages in a propaganda war against the latter over allegations of corruption involving pork barrel funds.”
Marie Hilao-Fernandez of Karapatan human rights alliance added that “without punishing perpetrators, impunity would persist.”
“With many erring military leaders like Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan at large for so long now, no Filipino has the right to feel safe whether inside or outside the confines of this volatile and merciless political system,” lawyer Edre Olalia warned. He warned further that for as long as we let the big fish go, “this country will forever be a disaster zone, reeling from storm to storm as the waters beat us black and blue.”