My ‘love affair’ with the justice system

By Satur C. Ocampo
At Ground Level | The Philippine Star

On April 7 I’ll turn 75 years old.

I had thought that my life – 50 years of which I have dedicated to activism for social and political change — would now move on towards relative quietude. Until I got an unexpected birthday gift: a rekindled “love affair.”

No, not the kind you may instantly imagine. It’s my “love affair” with the justice system (the police, prosecutors, the courts, and prisons). I’ve had this affair, on-and-off, over the past 38 years. Yes, for more than half my life.

Let me explain.

Anytime this month or next, I’ll be summoned to appear before Manila-RTC Branch 32 to face trial, along with eight others, on a charge of “15 counts of multiple murder.” Forty-five other co-accused are at-large.

All 54 of us are accused of being leaders/members of the CPP-NPA/NDFP allegedly responsible for the killing of 15 persons in Leyte way back in 1985, purportedly “to purge their ranks of suspected military informers.”

(Originally the case was filed in RTC Branch 18 in Hilongos, Leyte in February 2007. However, in July 2008 the Supreme Court, granting the request of then Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, ordered it transferred to the Manila RTC.)

In March 2007 I filed in the Supreme Court a petition seeking to nullify the case on two grounds:

1) I was denied due process during the preliminary investigation and in the issuance of arrest warrant (the police arrested me in the SC premises right after I filed my petition); and

2) Under the political crime doctrine/Hernandez doctrine – which the SC has upheld several times since the 1950s – the murder charge should have been absorbed by the rebellion case earlier filed against me and 44 others in the Makati RTC. My five co-accused and partylist colleagues in the House of Representatives then (we were called the “Batasan 6”) had petitioned the SC to nullify the case.

For almost seven years, patiently yet optimistically, I waited for the SC to act favorably on my 2007 petition. It did otherwise.

The murder charge is the only remaining court case (all instigated by the state security forces) I have to confront, fight, and win. Since 1978 I have confronted eight various charges – but never been proven guilty of any crime.

Briefly, these were the cases:

•Under the Marcos dictatorship, along with several others I underwent trials before “special military commissions” on two charges: 1) rebellion – the trial dragged on for eight years, but the military prosecutors failed to prove their case, until Marcos was overthrown; and 2) subversion – the trial was discontinued for lack of witnesses.

• Under the Cory administration, my wife Bobbie Malay and I were charged with three capital offenses: murder, kidnapping with serious illegal detention, and illegal possession of firearms. After three years of hearings, in four different courts, we were cleared of the charges.

(It was the same military prosecutor in the rebellion case under Marcos who prosecuted us in these three cases).

• Under the Arroyo regime, apparently for being militant members of Congress as partylist representatives, we the “Batasan 6” were first charged with rebellion in 2006, then in 2007 with two separate charges of murder against four of us in Nueva Ecija courts. Again we were cleared of the charges.

Besides these court victories, I nursed optimism because after the SC en banc heard the oral arguments in March 2007, the high court ordered my provisional release from police detention under a P100,000 cash bond.

Being granted bail for a nonbailable capital offense implied the evidence against me was weak (proof beyond reasonable doubt is required for conviction).

Another ground for my optimism: in July 2007, the SC ordered the dismissal of our rebellion case in the Makati-RTC for lack of evidence. The charge: as alleged leaders and members of the CPP-NPA, we were responsible for all the violence and “atrocities” allegedly committed by the NPA from 1969 to 2006.

Both the rebellion and multiple-murder charges were cooked up by the IALAG (Inter-Agency Legal Action Group), which Mrs. Arroyo created in 2006 to handle all legal cases involving “national security” against “enemies of the state.”

Because the charges were palpably trumped up, so evidently politically motivated, the SC saw fit to admonish Secretary Gonzalez and the state prosecutors for allowing themselves to be used for political objectives in filing the rebellion charge against us.

And so notoriously devious was the IALAG that, in his 2007 report, Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings and Enforced Disappearances, recommended its abolition because it targeted “the victims rather than the perpetrators” of human rights violations.

Arroyo had to abolish IALAG.

Ironically, the Supreme Court acted in different ways on our two petitions, with corresponding consequences.

Whereas in 2007 it repudiated the IALAG by ordering the dismissal of the latter’s “mother case” (the spurious rebellion charge), last Feb. 11, 2014, however, it virtually redeemed the IALAG by giving due course to the sequential multiple-murder charge. On April 1 (April Fools’ Day) the SC ignored our motion for reconsideration and reaffirmed its ruling.

IALAG’s discredited manipulators, Raul Gonzalez and Norberto Gonzales, may now be laughing and congratulating themselves. But I’m quite certain the last laugh will not be theirs.

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April 5, 2014

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