A 2005 report on the findings of the National Bureau of Investigation read: ‘We find that the protesters were more credible than the government personnel,’ and it recommended the filing of homicide charges against nine policemen.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – The families and survivors of the Hacienda Luisita massacre believe that President Benigno Aquino III ordered the killing of the case filed with the Office of the Ombudsman.
On Oct. 2, the Ombudsman dismissed the omnibus motion for reconsideration and reopening of the case filed by the complainants, Aug. 4. In its decision, the Ombudsman stated that the complainants failed to file a motion for reconsideration within the prescribed period.
The Ombudsman dismissed on July 11, 2005 the charges against civilian respondents, including President Benigno Aquino III, then representative of the second district of Tarlac, for “lack of merit.” Then on Dec. 6, 2010, the Ombudsman’s Military and Law Enforcement Offices (Moleo) dismissed all the criminal and administrative charges against military and police officials.
This did not come as a surprise to Hacienda Luisita farmers. Rudy Corpuz, vice chairman of the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala), asserted that Aquino is one of those responsible for the massacre on Nov. 16, 2004 that claimed the lives of seven of his colleagues.
What came as a surprise was the report of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on the Hacienda Luisita massacre dated Feb. 8, 2005. Jobert Pahilga, counsel of Ambala, noted that in its Dec. 6, 2010 decision, the Ombudsman cited the NBI report. Pahilga said he had asked for a copy but the Ombudsman did not furnish him all these years. The farmers’ lawyer only obtained a copy from Anakpawis partylist in October this year, or ten years after the massacre.
The cover sheet of the 45-page NBI report on the Hacienda Luisita massacre indicated that the report is confidential. It is stated that the unauthorized disclosure of the information contained in the report “would be prejudicial to the interest or prestige of the nation,” and “would cause administrative embarrassment or unwarranted injury to an individual.” The Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Uma) furnished Bulatlat.com a copy of the said report.
Pahilga said the NBI report should have been disclosed to the all the parties involved early on. “It cannot be confidential. It is vital in the resolution of the case,” he said.
Pahilga said that although incomplete, some of the findings of the NBI report actually bolster their complaints.
Among the key findings of the NBI are as follows:
• While the government side claims that that they saw some persons carrying rifle or pistol among the ranks of the protesters, they did not notice if the said weapons were fired directly at them
• Nobody from the government side was hit by the bullets although they claimed that the first volley of fire came from the protesters.
• The protesters, who were wounded or who sustained injuries, were mostly hit on the back or side of their bodies, which only suggests that they were retreating when hit by the bullets.
• The character of the gunshot wounds and degree of dispersal sustained by the protesters implied that the bullets came from a distance.
• Several rounds of spent ammunitions and various firearms were allegedly recovered from the site of the protesters but none was recovered from the government side. The only possible reason for this scenario is that the Philippine National Police (PNP) investigation focused their probe on the protesters and excluded the government side. This is too unnatural and against the operating standard or procedures in the conduct of any investigation.
• The back-up (security detail) personnel from the government side were armed with high powered weapons while the protesters were only armed with stones, Molotov bombs, baton and other effects.
• Even the independent witnesses who submitted sworn statements corroborated the claims of the protesters that the government side fired their weapons directly at the protesters.
• The paraffin test showing that nine PNP personnel were positive for nitrates constitutes corroborative evidence of their guilt. Admittedly, negative gunshot residue results do not conclusively mean that a subject did not fire a gun, and positive gunshot residue results do not prove someone fired a gun either. But it is equally true that even without it, there were sufficient identifications that the government side actually fired their firearms against the protesters.
The NBI report said further, “…We find that the protesters were more credible than the government personnel.” It added the protesters were consistent in their testimonies.
The NBI recommended the filing of multiple homicide charges against the nine policemen who were found positive for gunpowder burns.
Pahilga said the NBI report proves the culpability of the police and military deployed in the hacienda on Nov. 16, 2004. He lamented, however, “Wala man lang pa-consuelo de bobo. Not even the nine policemen, not even one of the perpetrators have been prosecuted.”
In its Dec. 6, 2010 decision, the Ombudsman “finds and so holds that there exists no probable cause and sufficient evidence to hold the respondents criminally and administratively liable.” The Ombudsman said that the police and military “were in the proper performance of their duty at the time of the incident.” It added “the respondents are authorized to use reasonable force to take control of the situation.”
The Ombudsman further stated that the evidence to prove the culpability of the respondents is circumstantial. It added that the Ombudsman could not infer from said evidence the identity of the assailants nor the actual participation of the police officers and army personnel in the crimes charged.
While the Ombudsman decision quoted heavily the affidavits of government forces included in the NBI report, it neither mentioned the key findings pointing to the culpability of the government forces nor the serious lapses in the police investigation.
With no one charged for the brutal killing until now, Pahilga asked, “Who killed the victims? Their colleagues? That is just illogical.”
Pahilga pointed out that not one hearing was ever conducted by the Office of the Ombudsman on the case. He said his clients were waiting for the opportunity to present additional evidence but they were not called for even one hearing.
The farmers’ lawyer could think of only one thing. “Noynoy (Aquino) had the case killed. It was his order. He has already assumed the presidency at the time the decision was made,” he said.
In his privilege speech after the Hacienda Luisita massacre, then congressman Noynoy Aquino asserted that the strike of the workers was illegal and that the sniper fire came from the ranks of the workers.
To this day, the claim that the shots came from the protesters has never been proven.
Not giving up
Pahilga said he and the other lawyers would file a new case before the Ombudsman or appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. The farmers’ lawyer said they might even use the NBI report, which, he said, might be considered as new piece of evidence.