By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – An Antipolo court found the three accused of murdering labor leader Rolando “Ka Lando” Olalia and his companion Leonor Alay-ay guilty beyond reasonable doubt, Oct. 12.
Presiding Judge Marie Claire Victoria Mabutas Sordan of Branch 97 Antipolo RTC sentenced soldiers namely Desiderio Perez, Dennis Jabatan and Fernando Casanova of reclusion perpetua or imprisonment of 40 years without eligibility for parole. They are also ordered to pay damages to the families of Olalia with total amount of P1.2 million ($23,595) and Alay-ay with total amount of P900,000 ($17,696).
“The court has carefully sifted through the volumes of records of these cases, and is fully convinced that the prosecution was able to establish beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of the accused in these cases,” the court decision read, adding that the prosecution through the witnesses it presented was able to show the participation of the three accused.
The judgment was signed and dated Sept. 24.
LOOK: Here are the dispositive portions of today’s guilty verdict vs. 3 soldiers implicated in the 35-year-old double murder of labor leader Rolando Olalia and Leonor Alay-ay. pic.twitter.com/2FImzCYHtJ
— Bulatlat (@bulatlat) October 12, 2021
But for the family of the late labor leader, the fight for justice is not over.
“Our victory today has only stiffened our resolve to never abandon our search for the remaining nine men involved in our father’s brutal killing,” said Rolando Rico Olalia, son of Ka Lando.
There were 13 suspects in the killing of Ka Lando and Alay-ay, all were active soldiers during the administration of the late President Cory Aquino.
Rolando Rico said that only when Cirilo Almario, Jose Bacera, Ricardo Dicon, Gilbert Galicia, Oscar Legaspi, Filomeno Maligaya, Gene Paris, Freddie Sumagaysay and Edger Sumido and other unnamed principals “who have managed to evade the long arm of the law have been found and brought before the courts to be held accountable for their crimes, will justice be finally served.”
Read: Backstory | The 35-year-old Olalia-Alay-ay murder case
Another suspect, then Col. Eduardo Kapunan Jr. was granted bail and acquitted in 2016. This, despite the positive identification of the witnesses of Kapunan’s involvement in the crime. Kapunan has been appointed ambassador to Myanmar.
One of the eyewitnesses also implicated former senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Gringo Honasan in the killing.
The National Federation of Labor Unions – Kilusang Mayo Uno (NAFLU-KMU) and the national office of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) also welcomed the court’s decision.
However, KMU Chairperson Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog said that the “real culprits and mastermind” in the killing of Ka Lando and Alay-ay should be named and also be punished.
“Justice will only truly be served if they are named and judged. Additionally, there are still nine suspects at large. They must also be sought and convicted,” Labog said.
Teddy Casiño of Bagong Alyansang Makabaya (Bayan) also said that the verdict, while it is welcome, is too little and too late.
“Too late because justice late is justice denied. It took 35 years. And too little because it was just the trigger men who were prosecuted while the masterminds remain scot free. This is why for us, this is a partial justice,” he said.
Casiño said that Ka Lando and Alay-ay’s case is one of the few cases of extrajudicial killings that were filed in court. Many other cases, he said, did not even undergo trial or even investigated and this is the Olalia-Alay-ay case is important to the Filipino people.
He added, “May this serve as a warning to those who allowed themselves to used by the NTF-ELCAC [National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict] and the Dutere administration that the day will come that you will be brought to justice.”
Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) who was part of the private prosecution team also said, “this case is emblematic of many things. And it brings some very important messages and lessons.”
“One, superiors and handlers of subordinates will eventually abandon them when the chips are down. Two, grounded tenacity to seek justice despite overwhelming odds and dangers can yield positive results. Finally, law and justice will in time catch up with perpetrators later if not sooner,” Olalia, also cousin of Ka Lando, said.
Ka Lando and Alay-ay were abducted the armed men on Nov. 12, 1986 in Pasig City. The following day, their bodies were found in Rizal, hogtied, bearing bruises, stab wounds and gunshot wounds in the head.
A marker was put up in the site where their bodies were found and is now called as Olalia Road in Antipolo City.
Ka Lando was the former chairperson of the NAFLU and later become chairman of KMU and Bayan. In 1986, he was also chosen as chairman of Partido ng Bayan. He was remembered as a well-loved unionist and defender of the workers’ rights.
“For the longest time, our family has been languishing in a pit of despair brought on by the glacial pace of justice. Now we are climbing out, but we cannot let go unacknowledged the help and sympathy our family has been the grateful recipient off for almost forty years,” Rolando Rico said.
Their family also expressed gratitude to the Public Interest Law Center, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, the panel of public prosecutors headed by Deputy Chief State Prosecutor Theodore Villanueva of the Department of Justice and other volunteer colleagues of my father for service and expertise.
“Our gratitude also to KMU and Bayan, as well as friends and relatives who gave unstintingly of their time and sympathy during those difficult years,” he said.
“Today is a day of celebration and of restored belief in our judicial system. It is also a day of loss and a day of remembrance in honor of two brave and honorable men we were privileged to know as father and as a friend,” Rolando Rico added. (RVO)