The defense lawyers from the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) and National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL) pointed out that the Hilongos case is a recycled case, which was maliciously filed with the sole motive of persecuting the accused.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – In a hearing today August 6, lawyers of high-profile political activists asked the court to dismiss the multiple murder charges against their clients and to nullify the amended information filed by the prosecution.
In an omnibus motion, the lawyers argued that the multiple murder charges in relation to an alleged mass grave found in Leyte in 2006, also known as the Hilongos case should be dismissed on several grounds.
In their 40-page motion, the defense lawyers from the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) and National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL) pointed out that the Hilongos case is a recycled case, which was maliciously filed with the sole motive of persecuting the accused.
The charges were filed in 2006 by the Philippine National Police Regional Office 8 and the 8th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army against more than 70 alleged top leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People’s Army (NPA) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). Among the accused were former Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo, NDFP consultants Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Tiamzon, Rafael Baylosis, Randall Echanis, Vicente Ladlad and farmers Dario Tomada, Oscar Belleza and Norberto Murillo.
The lawyers said that a separate complaint for multiple murder in connection with an alleged mass grave found in Monterico village, Baybay, Leyte was also filed by the Army’s 8th IB on July 18, 2000 against 25 alleged NPA members.
The Baybay case was eventually dismissed by the trial court on Jan. 10, 2005. In its decision, the court stated that none of the elements of murder was sufficiently established by the prosecution and no eyewitnesses offered a blow-by-blow account of what actually transpired.
After one year, the Hilongos case was filed with three of the alleged 15 victims in the Baybay case – Juanita Aviola, Concepcion Aragon and Gregorio Eras – were again cited as victims in the Hilongos case.
The defense argued that the Hilongos case with respect to the three alleged victims should be dismissed because there was a prior judgment in the Baybay case and the judgment was conclusive since the prosecution did not file an appeal in the Baybay case.
The lawyers added that the act of recycling the dismissed Baybay case amounts to forum shopping. A Supreme Court jurisprudence states that the essence of forum shopping is the filing of multiple suits involving the same parties for the same cause of action, either simultaneously or successively, for the purpose of obtaining a favorable judgment.
The lawyers said multiple murder charges should be dismissed with respect to two other victims cited in the Hilongos case – Teodoro Recones Jr. and Zacarias N. Casil – since the offense has already prescribed.
Under the Article 90 of the Revised Penal Code, prescription of crimes punishable by death, reclusion perpetua or reclusion temporal shall prescribe in 20 years. The failure of the offended party or the proper authorities to commence an action during these periods shall result in the prescription of the crime or the loss of their right to prosecute the offenders.
The lawyers said the relatives of Recones and Casil knew about the deaths as early as 1985 and the case was filed in 2006 or 21 years after the prescription period began.
Quash amended, new information
The defense lawyers also asked the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 32 to quash or nullify the amended information and the 14 new information filed by the prosecution. Information refers to the formal accusation of a criminal offense.
The lawyers maintained that the allegations of treachery, evident premeditation and taking advantage of superior strength in the amended information and 14 new information were not supported by any of the statements of the prosecution witnesses.
Judge Thelma Medina-Bunye of the Manila RTC Branch 32 gave the prosecution ten days to file comment to the omnibus motion; after which the case shall be deemed for resolution.
Present during the August 6 hearing were Ocampo, Ladlad, Baylosis and the three farmers Tomada, Belleza and Murillo who are currently detained at the Manila City Jail. Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Tiamzon, also co-accused in the case, were not brought to the court by their custodians.