Asked how he knew the real names of his alleged former comrades, self-proclaimed rebel returnee and government witness Antonio Panisan said in Cebuano that they sometimes called one another by their real names.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — Former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and other co-accused in the Hilongos mass graves case found the testimony of a government witness laughable.
During a hearing Sept. 17 at the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 32, self-proclaimed rebel returnee Antonio Panisan claimed that sometime in September 1985, Ocampo and a certain Ka Basyo held a meeting with around 40 New People’s Amy (NPA) fighters in a place he called as “Kampo Pinya” in sitio Sapang Dako, barangay Kaulisihan, Inopacan, Leyte. Panisan said that Ka Basyo ordered them to “kill all those who are against the communist movement” and that Ocampo supported Ka Basyo’s order.
Judge Thelma Bunyi-Medina asked Panisan, who speaks Cebuano and could not understand Tagalog, how he was able to understand Ocampo. Panisan said in Cebuano, “I could understand a few Tagalog words like ‘patayin.’”
In an interview with Bulatlat, Ocampo said he could not speak and understand Cebuano. More importantly, he first set foot in Leyte in 2001, when he was campaigning for Bayan Muna.
The government witness also claimed that Exuperio Lloren, a political prisoner accused in the Hilongos case, was Ka Basyo.
Lloren told Bulatlat that he first met Ocampo in 1992 for the local peace talks. Lloren then was just released from prison when he joined the peace talks between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the government. He would see Ocampo again at the court hearings in Manila RTC Branch 32 where both of them and 70 others were accused.
In his testimony, Panisan supplied the real names of alleged NPA guerrillas he knew. Asked how he knew the real names of his alleged former comrades, Panisan said in Cebuano that they sometimes called one another by their real names. This elicited suppressed laughter and murmurs from Lloren and three other political detainees in the courtroom. It’s common knowledge that anyone joining an underground movement assumes a nom de guerre for security reasons.
Panisan also claimed that Ka Baki was Prudencio Calubid and that Ka Nestor/Ka Arman, the one who allegedly recruited him to the movement was Jaime Soledad. Calubid was one of the NDFP consultants who went missing since 2006 while Soledad is one of the NDFP consultants released from prison in 2016 to participate in the peace talks.
Ocampo reiterated that the Gloria Arroyo-era case is one of the fabricated charges filed against him and other activists. In the original complaint, Ocampo allegedly ordered the mass killing in 1984. He then submitted an affidavit saying he was still in prison in 1984 and was able to escape captivity on May 5, 1985. The prosecution then amended the complaint, alleging that he had been in Leyte since June 1985.
Lawyers from the Public Interest Law Center maintained that it’s a case of traveling skeletons. In July 2000, a complaint for multiple murder was filed against 25 alleged NPA guerrillas in connection with the alleged mass grave found in Monterico village, Baybay Leyte. On January 10, 2005, the case was dismissed due to insufficient evidence. Six years later, multiple murder charges were filed in connection with another alleged mass grave in another town, in Inopacan.
Five of the victims, whose skeletal remains were allegedly found in Monterico village, Baybay, Leyte on June 27, 2000 were the same alleged victims in the Hilongos case, whose skeletal remains were allegedly found on August 26, 2006 in Mt. Sapang Dako, Inopacan, Leyte.
The Hilongos case is cited in the Department of Justice’s petition to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and NPA as terrorist organizations.
Just last month, a court in Nueva Ecija ordered the arrest of Ocampo and three other progressive leaders of Makabayan for fabricated murder charges. It was eventually dismissed for lack of merit.