The decision was based solely on the testimony of Bayani Domingo, who claimed to be a former member of the New People’s Army before he surrendered to the military in 2006.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — For nine years, Julieta Caloza would travel from their home in San Jose City, Nueva Ecija to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City to visit her husband Leopoldo.
Leopoldo, 58, a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), was arrested in October 2006. Twenty-one charges were filed against him. All except one were dismissed due to lack of merit.
Last month, a local court in Taguig sentenced Leopoldo and Emerito Antalan, another NDFP consultant, with life imprisonment for the murder of a certain Kathlyn Ramos.
In a phone interview with Bulatlat.com, Julieta said, her voice breaking, “Ang bigat-bigat nito para sa akin. Sa huling kaso pa siya nahatulan.” (This is too much for me to take. He was convicted on the last case filed against him).
Antalan, meanwhile, was charged with eight criminal charges which were all dismissed for lack of merit as early as 2007.
As NDFP consultants, both Antalan and Caloza are protected by the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig).
In an urgent action alert, human rights alliance Karapatan said, “Their arrest is already a violation of the Jasig, their conviction is even a graver offense.”
‘No direct evidence’
Julieta said their lawyers are appealing the decision of Taguig Regional Trial Court Branch 266 judge Toribio Ilao Jr.
Ilao’s decision was based solely on the testimony of Bayani Domingo, who claimed to be a former member of the New People’s Army before he surrendered to the military in 2006. Domingo admitted he did not see Antalan and Caloza kill Kathlyn Ramos.
Two other witnesses against Caloza and Antalan were Leonardo Bernardo and Tarcila Ramos, mother of the victim. Bernardo said he knew Antalan and Caloza as NPA leaders. He mentioned nothing about the alleged murder.
Tarcila Ramos testified about the exhumation of the body she assumed, but not certain, to be that of her daughter’s. She admitted in court that they did not undergo DNA test to establish it was Kathlyn Ramos’s remains.
Karapatan said the court believed Domingo’s story even without any direct evidence to support his claim. “Branch 266 even justified this by saying, ‘circumstantial evidence, if sufficient, can supplant the absence of direct evidence.’”
Caloza and Antalan are the second and third peace consultants to be convicted since the Jasig was signed by the GPH and the NDFP in 1995. In 2013, peace consultant Eduardo Sarmiento was sentenced to life imprisonment for illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Sarmiento’s lawyers filed a Motion for Reconsideration seeking the reversal of the court’s decision
Edre Olalia, secretary general of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), said in an earlier statement that the growing number of NDFP consultants who are being arrested and detained on the basis of trumped-up charges is “a clear barometer that the GPH lacks the sincerity to implement and even respect the bilateral agreements it signed in the peace negotiations.”
Twelve other NDFP consultants are detained in various jails, according to Karapatan.
Not a criminal
Julieta maintained that her husband is not a criminal. She said Leopoldo has only been serving the poor farmers of Nueva Ecija since martial law years.
Leopoldo was first arrested in 1981. He was subjected to torture. He was released the following year with the help of local government officials.
Julieta said the family has gone through a lot. Her son Arturo was gunned down by soldiers under Ret. Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan on March 4, 2006. Arturo, a local leader of Bayan Muna in their hometown, was 28 when he was killed.
Julieta has yet to break the news to her two daughters, one of whom is pregnant with her fist child.