The Court of Appeals is expected to rule on the petition for certiorari filed by the accused soon.
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 32 has deferred the arraignment of Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria, along with other peace consultants of the National Democratic Front, today, Feb. 26 as they await the decision for the petition for certiorari filed before the Court of Appeals.
During the hearing, Rachel Pastores of the Public Interest Law Center manifested the deferment of the arraignment. She said that they have received reports that the Court of Appeals will issue a decision soon.
Judge Thelma Bunyi-Medina granted the said manifestation.
The Tiamzons, peace consultants Randall Echanis and Vicente Ladlad, and Makabayan president Satur Ocampo are among those accused of being behind the alleged mass grave in Inopacan, Leyte.
The purported mass graves, which the military claims it exhumed in 2006, supposedly contain skeletons of victims of an alleged anti-infiltration campaign conducted by the Communist Party of the Philippines. The accused, however, argued that the skeletons presented as evidence were the same ones allegedly found in Baybay, Leyte in 2000 and was used in a prior case.
Pastores told the media after the hearing that they are only asking for “more time” as their clients avail of remedy “to protect their rights” before they are arraigned.
She said that among the grounds for their petition for certiorari include the lack of evidence to support the information on the case. For one, Pastores said, the information of the case cited aggravating circumstances such as treachery so prosecutors could file murder against the accused. These, however, are not backed by evidence nor by testimonies of supposed witnesses.
But more important, Pastores added, is that the case was fabricated as it is backed by the now defunct Interagency Legal Action Group (IALAG).
IALAG was formed under former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, to coordinate cases related to national security. Human rights workers argue, however, that it served as a repressive tool to file trumped up cases against activists.
Though it was abolished in 2009, two years after United Nation Special Rapporteur Philip Alston’s visit, human rights defenders said trumped up charges against activists were not dropped and remain active.