By GABBIE CASTRO
BACOOR, Cavite — Farmer activists who are charged with multiple murder charges over the infamous Hilongos mass grave are seeking the dismissal of the cases, saying that the evidence presented against them were insufficient and fabricated.
The three farmer activists Norberto Murillo, Dario Tomada, and Oscar Belleza, through their lawyers from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, filed a demurrer to evidence plea before the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 32 yesterday, Oct. 5.
The multiple murder charges they are facing stemmed from a supposed mass gravesite that was found in 2006 in Mt. Sapang Dako, Inopacan, Leyte. A closer look, however, revealed that some of the remains were also earlier found in another mass grave purportedly discovered in Baybay, Leyte six years prior.
Among the issues raised by the farmers were invalidity of the admissions and testimonies of alleged ‘rebel returnees’ against them, and the insufficient evidence to support a conclusive finding of corpus delicti or the body of the crime.
In a copy of the demurrer plea furnished to Bulatlat, accused farmers said that “the testimonies of the purported rebel returnees cannot be accorded weight and credence as they are laden with numerous conflicting statements, improbabilities, and recantations.”
Lawyers of the farmers also argued that the evidence against the accused was insufficient and had no credible evidence to prove that it was murder.
Only months apart, Murillo and Belleza were arrested separately in 2008. Tomada was arrested two years later.
The Hilongos case has since been considered a “circus that is kept alive for political persecution.” Apart from the three farmers, there are also about 70 other accused including peace consultants Satur Ocampo, Rafael Baylosis, Randall Echanis, Vicente Ladlad, and Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairperson Jose Maria Sison.
“Considering the paucity, incompetence and inadmissibility of the evidence presented against movants and their co-accused, it would be unfair to sustain their indictment and hold them for trial,” the 58-page petition read, adding that the accused farmers should be “relieved from the continuing pain and hardship of further being deprived of their liberty and unnecessarily enduring a full-blown trial. It is time to right the wrong already.” (JJE, RTS)