4 party-list lawmakers seek Supreme Court relief on slay raps

Published by rudy Date posted on March 30, 2009

MANILA, Philippines – Four party-list lawmakers accused of being involved in the killings of three former rebels in Nueva Ecija have sought relief from the Supreme Court (SC) in the cases that they believe are part of their political persecution under the administration of President Arroyo.

In a 59-page petition, Reps. Liza Maza of Gabriela Women’s Party, Saturnino Ocampo and Teodoro Casiño of Bayan Muna, and Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis asked the SC to reverse the decision of the Palayan City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 40 remanding two of the three murder cases against them to the provincial prosecutor for reinvestigation.

Along with 15 alleged members of the Communist Party of Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), the four lawmakers were implicated in the abduction and killing of Danilo Felipe in 2001, Jimmy Peralta in 2003 and Carlito Bayudang in 2004.

The Peralta and Bayudang cases were filed on April 18 last year before Palayan City RTC Branch 40 Judge Evelyn Turla.

The four lawmakers filed a petition before the trial seeking dismissal of the cases, but Turla instead ordered a reinvestigation and referred the cases back to the provincial prosecutor’s office on July 18 last year.

They said Turla “acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction” when she shirked from her constitutional duty to determine probable cause against them and did not dismiss the cases despite lack of evidence to establish probable cause.

If there is doubt on Turla’s part as to the existence of probable cause, the lawmakers said she should have ordered the prosecutor to present additional evidence within five days of notice or set the case for hearing so she could make clarifications on the factual issues.

They noted that the third case for the kidnapping and murder of Felipe was dismissed by the Guimba RTC Branch 31, and it was based on the same evidence presented by the prosecution in the two other cases before Turla’s sala.

The party-list lawmakers asked the SC not only to reverse Turla’s order but also to issue a temporary restraining order or a writ of preliminary injunction stopping the provincial prosecutor’s office from conducting further preliminary investigation.

Named respondents in the SC petition were Turla, acting provincial prosecutor Floro Florendo and members of the investigating panel of prosecutors, and Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez.

The lawmakers’ lead counsel, Romeo Capulong, earlier branded the charges as part of political persecution by the Arroyo administration.

The charges were based on the complaints filed by the victims’ widows, Medelyn Felipe, Isabelita Bayudang and Mayumi Peralta.

In the information filed with the court, Florendo said authorities have labeled the party-list lawmakers as “leftist’ and that their groups “were alleged as fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army, and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.”

He identified Eugenia Magpantay, Vicente Cayetano, Delfin Pimentel and Emeterio Antalan as “high ranking officials” of the CPP-NPA’s Central Luzon and Nueva Ecija committees.

Julie Sinohin and the other respondents, meanwhile, were tagged as members of the CPP-NPA liquidation squad and intelligence group.

Records show that Felipe was abducted on Feb. 17, 2001 in Sitio Balic-Balic, Barangay Narvacan, Guimba town supposedly by an NPA hit squad and later tortured and killed.

Peralta was killed in an alleged case of mistaken identity in Barangay Sinipit, Bongabon town on Dec. 23, 2003. He was reportedly mistaken to be his brother Ricardo who headed the Red Vigilante Group.

The same liquidation squad was said to have killed Bayudang on May 6, 2004.

Sinohin, however, turned prosecution witness after executing an extra-judicial confession, pointing to the other accused as the ones behind the killings.

Sinohin told probers that he was the one who fetched and brought the group of Ocampo, Maza, Casiño and Mariano to a house where the participation of Bayan Muna in the party-list elections in 2001 was discussed.

After the discussion, it was alleged that the four lawmakers “directed the leaders of the CPP-NPA in Central Luzon to liquidate former CPP-NPA members who would support the party-list Akbayan.”

“Liza Maza suggested that members of Gabriela be used in gathering intelligence (information) on who would support Akbayan,” the charge sheet stated.

The lawmakers sought judicial determination of probable cause due to alleged prosecutorial misconduct.–Edu Punay, Philippine Star

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