Two enlisted Philippine Army personnel were convicted for the June 2010 murder of Negros Occidental Bayan Muna Party coordinator Benjamin Bayless in June 2010.
In a March 31, 2022 decision, Acting Presiding Judge Ana Celeste P. Bernad of Branch 42 of the Bacolod City Regional Trial Court found Rafael C. Cordova and Reygine G. Laus guilty for the murder of Bayles in Himamaylan City.
“From the entirety of the testimonial and documentary evidence proffered by the prosecution, this Coutt is of the considered view that the prosecution was able to establish the guilt of the accused by the quantum of proof sufficient to produce a moral certainty that would convince the conscience of those who are to act in judgement,” Judge Bernad’s decision reads.
In addition to life imprisonment (reclusion perpetua), the Court also ordered the convicts to pay Bayles’ heirs a total of Php300,000 as civil indemnity, moral damages and exemplary damages.
The convicts were tried as Roger Bajon and Ronnie Caurino, respectively, names they gave the Himamaylan Police when arrested after the shooting.
The soldiers were wearing helmets onboard a black Honda TMX motorcycle with no license plates when arrested by the police who were alerted by a witness to the shooting.
The police also confiscated two unlicensed .45 caliber handguns with live bullets from Cordova and Laus.
During a hearing in April 2013, then 61st Infantry Battalion commander Lt. Col Ricardo B. Bayhon identified the two murderers as military enlisted men.
National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers president Edre Olalia welcomed the conviction, crediting the victory to lawyer Benjamin Ramos who acted as one of the private prosecutors in the case.
Ramos was himself assassinated in November 2018.
“This is for you, Ben Bayles and Ben Ramos, the latter who was with us to see this through before he himself was killed in 2018,” Olalia said in a statement.
“This is a clear message and warning to those who think there is immunity for impunity,” he added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)