“The message is clear: lowly soldiers should not follow illegal orders from superiors because they will walk free and (lowly soldiers) will take the fall.”
By MARYA SALAMAT | Bulatlat.com
MANlLA – The Regional Trial Court Branch 97 of Antipolo City acquitted on Wednesday (June 1) Eduardo E. Kapunan Jr., one of the accused in the abduction and murder of labor leader Rolando Olalia and Leonor Alay-ay in 1986. The court was presided by Judge Marie Claire Victoria Mabutas-Sordan.
Kapunan’s acquittal rested largely on what his camp calls as doubts over his actual participation in the crime. Kapunan asked the court to acquit him “on the ground that the prosecution’s evidence has utterly failed to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.”
The doubt stems from his direct order to the principal witness, in which Kapunan said he merely asked Medardo Barreto to help Sgt. Edger Sumido in an operation. The court earlier granted him bail on the same line of reasoning.
Kapunan’s doubtful innocence?
Kapunan surrendered on Oct 10, 2012 over the double murder of labor leader Rolando Olalia and companion Leonor Alay-ay. An ex-colonel of the Philippine Army, his military VIP status helped him to defer getting transferred to Rizal Provincial Jail where some of his co-accused are being held. Even as the murder trial his group managed to postpone for more than a decade finally began late in 2012, Kapunan spent his detention in custody of the National Bureau of Investigation from Oct 27, 2012 until he was allowed to post bail a year later. Two years after that, he was acquitted.
Olalia’s group said that Kapunan’s involvement in the “conspiracy may be deduced from the mode, method and manner in which the offense was perpetrated.”
They said the following established circumstances should have been enough to convict Kapunan:
> Kapunan’s instructions for Barretto (principal witness) in the first week of November 196 to help Sumido in an operation;
> Kapunan’s directive to provide funds to change the color of vehicle used in the abduction and killing of Olalia and Alay-ay;
> Kapunan meeting with other accused in the Olalia murder where he reminded them to keep quiet about the group’s secret operation on Olalia.
Kapunan said the “existence of conspiracy cannot be presumed.” He dismissed the lower ranking soldier’s “uncorroborated” testimony that pointed to him as mastermind, saying it merely established that Kapunan was not physically present during the surveillance, abduction and in the safehouse where Olalia and Alay-ay were brought hours before they were brutally murdered nearly 30 years ago.
Kapunan’s acquittal is “distressing and frustrating,” said lawyer Edre Olalia, a relative of the murdered labor leader and lead prosecutor in the case.
“The message is clear: lowly soldiers should not follow illegal orders from superiors because they will walk free and (lowly soldiers) will take the fall,” Olalia said.
With Kapunan’s acquittal, one of the ten others who were accused in the double murder but still at large, Fernando Casanova, was put in jail and set for arraignment today, June 2.