Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume III, Number 41 November 16 - 22, 2003 Quezon City, Philippines
journalist Beng Hernandez, gunned down while investigating a human rights
violation case, would have turned 24 on Nov. 21. Justice would have been a
perfect gift for her. And as if on
cue, a three-man panel of the Davao City Prosecution Office recently ruled that
there is substantial evidence to file murder charges against the two soldiers
and the paramilitary men allegedly involved in the murder of Hernandez and her
TYRONE A. VELEZ
Hernandez, vice president for Mindanao of the College Editors Guild of the
Philippines (CEGP) and deputy secretary general of the human rights group
Karapatan-Southern Mindanao, was murdered along with three others last April 5,
2002 while she was conducting research on the human rights situation in Arakan
Valley, North Cotabato, southern Philippines.
took nearly two years after the incident before her family and friends found a
flicker of hope that they will still see justice for Hernandez.
were M/Sgt. Antonio Torilla, and Cpl. Randolph Tamayo of the Armys
12th Special Forces Company, along with Leo Indagacan and Didok Anarna and
another unidentified member of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu).
panel cleared the other respondents for lack of evidence on their participation,
namely Pfc. Celso Padama and Cafgu members Edwin Arandilla, Edgar Alojado and
panel, composed of state prosecutor Fundador Villafuerte as panel chairman,
assistant city prosecutors Jofre Saniel and Ma Gemma Dabbay, issued a seven-page
resolution written Oct. 30 calling for the filing of charges for the killings of
Hernandez, Vivian Andrade and Crisanto Amora.
the panel cleared the soldiers and militiamen of responsibility for the death of
the fourth victim, Libaon Simunday, saying his death was a result of a
Southern Mindanao Secretary General Ariel Casilao hailed the City Prosecution
Office for its finding, saying it was an initial victory for the family and the
search for justice.
said this resolution is also a vindication for Hernandez and Karapatan since it
debunks the military and North Cotabato Gov. Emmanuel Piρols
statements that Hernandez was killed in an encounter.
credibility is now ruined,
said Casilao. Two days after the Arakan Massacre, Piρol
came out with his own findings
-- firearms and subversive documents allegedly belonging to Beng and her
companions and a diary allegedly written by Beng.
the new ruling, Casilao believes that their case has become stronger. The
families of Hernandez and Andrade are also thankful for the decision.
have a strong case at hand. It would not be surprising if the accused party will
employ delaying tactics especially that such are their expertise,
Hernandez, the victims
father, challenged the 6th ID spokesperson Maj. Julieto Ando who
earlier promised to him and Karapatan to voluntarily submit their men to the
court if charges will be pressed.
also urged Piρol
to come out with his statement now that the panel has contradicted his previous
urged the Army to immediately confine the suspects to barracks to prevent a
repeat of the Mawab Four Massacre (an incident on Aug. 2, 1999 wherein an NPA
leader, medic, and two civilians were murdered but with the suspects going into
hiding and remaining at large).
panel came out with this decision after corroborating the statements from the
witnesses and the medical findings of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
examinations conducted by Dr. Reynaldo Romero of the National Bureau of
Investigation showed that Hernandez, Amora, and Andrade were all shot at close
range. The findings corroborated the eyewitness account of Alindro Pacana who
saw Hernandez being shot as she was pleading to the suspects not to harm her.
said he was with Hernandez and Andrade the night before the incident as they
spent the night together in a house in Arakan Valley.
10:30 a.m. April 5, 2002, Crisanto Amora arrived carrying a long firearm and
talked to Hernandez and Andrade.
Labaon Sinunday, a farmer, brought them food. Moments later, gunfire was heard
coming from the outside. Amora shouted for them to jump out of the house.
was the first to jump out of the window, but he was hit by a hail of bullets.
Pacana managed to jumped out and escape from the sight of the armed men.
the bushes, Pacana said he saw Amora wounded in the stomach. Amora reportedly
threw down his firearm and asked for medical help. Surrender,
surrender! I wont
kill me because I have a family,
Amora cried out. Hernandez and Andrade were kneeling beside Amora, also pleading
to the men to bring him to a doctor.
first, the armed men deliberated on what to do with Amora. Then one of them shot
Amora in the neck and crotch.
Pacana recalled that Hernandez was raising her arms and cried, Have
pity, sir, we are civilians.
But she and Andrade were also shot. A bullet broke Hernandezs
armed men then strafed the house and fired shots in the air, and took away Amoras
firearm with them. Pacana said there were about five men who attacked them.
witnesses also recounted how Torilla came to their houses and said, They
are all finished. Go pick up their bodies.
the investigation of the Commission on Human Rights, Torilla claimed that what
happened was a legitimate encounter. He said his men recovered an armalite
rifle, a Thompson, one .38 caliber revolver, subversive documents and personal
city prosecution panel however found that Torillas
claim was a
matter of defense
that should be presented during the formal trial. Bulatlat.com
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