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Court denies gov’t move to jail Satur anew

A Manila Court denied a motion by government prosecutors to jail journalist and former Bayan Muna representative Satur Ocampo anew, saying Ocampo’s bail bond remains in effect until proceedings on a murder charge against him has been terminated.

In an order dated Monday, August 19, Presiding Judge Thelma Bunyi-Medina of the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 32 said she finds no reason to issue a recommitment order against Ocampo.

“Plainly, the grant of bail to accused-movant Ocampo is not subject to any other condition, except that its effectivity is until the termination of the proceedings of this case,” Bunyi-Medina’s order reads.

The Court is hearing the murder charge against Ocampo for allegedly ordering the mass murder of at least 15 individuals alleged by the military as victims of a supposed purge by the Communist Party of the Philippines in the mid-1980s.

Ocampo has repeatedly said that the charge was laughable, explaining that he was still in jail in 1984 when government witnesses alleged that he gave the order in an underground meeting in Leyte.

In a motion to the court last June 12, government prosecutors argued Ocampo abused his provisional liberty when he was involved in the alleged kidnapping of Lumad children who fled their homes in Talaingod, Davao del Norte last November.

Ocampo, along with Act Teachers’ Party Representative France Castro, were charged with violations of Republic Act No. 10364 or the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012 before Branch 2 of the Tagum City RTC.

“This renders him unworthy of the temporary liberty granted to him,” the prosecutors said.

Ocampo (center) reads the order junking the government’s appeal to jail him anew. Jailed National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultants Vicente Ladlad (left) and Adelberto Silva (right) look on. (Photo by Atty Kristina Conti/PILC)

Ocampo and Castro, however, said they did not go to Talaingod to kidnap the children but to show their support to the Lumad who fled Sitio Nasilaban, Barangay Palma Gil in Talaingod after elements of the 56th Infantry Battallion of the Philippine Army and the Alamara paramilitary band forcibly closed down their community school.

Through his Public Interest Law Center (PILC) lawyers, Ocampo said they were allowed to post bail after their arrest and the case is in a pre-trial stage at the Tagum City Regional Trial Court.

“The prosecution maliciously insinuates that accused Ocampo is already guilty of kidnapping and child abuse, while he is entitled to a presumption of innocence,” the PILC said in their oppostion to the government prosecutors’ move.

Judge Bunyi-Medina agreed with Ocampo’s lawyers, saying “[A]s admitted by the prosecution, said case is still pending before Branch 2 of the [RTC] of Tagum City, Davao del Norte, nor was it shown that a warrant of arrest was issued against him.”

The PILC said the motion by the government prosecutors is “politically motivated and legally baseless.”

“Ka Satur has weathered through some 12 cases – none of which he has been convicted in, all false and trumped-up,” the PILC said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

GRP now cracking down on friends and family of detained NDFP consultants — lawyer

The alleged safehouse in Marikina raided by the police Saturday is a family home, a lawyer of detained National Democratic Front of the Philippine (NDFP) peace consultants said.

Public Interest Law Center managing counsel Rachel Pastores said police claims that the house located at 34-A Chrysanthemum St., Loyola Residents, Barangay Barangka was a safehouse where guns grenades were kept is “preposterous”.

“How utterly preposterous. Gamara was found staying above a coffee shop in the sentro of Imus City, with the police station a stone’s throw away. The house in Marikina, which the police claimed was another hideout, is a family home,” Pastores in a statement said.

Earlier, National Capital Region Police Office director P/Maj. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said the police applied for another search warrant to conduct the raid in Marikina after they recovered a suspected fake identification card on Gamara bearing the address.

Eleazar said that several documents, a seafarer’s identification and a record book, two hand grenades and a 9mm pistol were confiscated during the operation conducted Friday morning.

“We are now looking for the caretaker of the house identified as Ryan Dizon. He was not around when the search warrant was implemented on Friday,” Eleazar said.

Pastores, however, said acquaintances, old friends, and family of peace consultants are now clear targets of police and military, who have come together in a crackdown against peace consultants and advocates.

“Planting firearms and explosives is the police grasping at straws, because there is no legitimate reason to arrest or investigate the persons found therein, nor the peace consultants themselves,” Pastores said.

The lawyer recalled that retired priest Arturo Balagat arrested with Gamara in Imus was later found by the prosecutor general to have no criminal intent and ties with the peace consultant other than graciously giving him shelter and food.

But the police has threatened to have Balagat’s cooperative’s licenses and registration cancelled, Pastores said.

“Both army and police officials must temper their braggadocio, not until their competence and intelligence catch up,” Pastores said.

The lawyer also criticized President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70 and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict it created for being very busy in picking up “sick, defenseless, and unarmed” NDFP peace consultants.

“When Francisco Fernandez and Cleofe Lagtapon, likewise peace consultants, were arrested in Laguna a week ago, the army claimed to have also found them with pistols and grenades – and then, paradoxically, crowed over how weak and vulnerable they were,” Pastores said.

“Executive Order No. 70 wants to put an end to the roots of the insurgency and reclaim the peace, but why do its implementors spawn more injustice along the way? Long-drawn vendetta, disbalance of power and inequities, as demonstrated in the illegal arrests and detention of peace consultants, only pose more reasons to resist,” she added.

Pastores said they are confident that charges against Gamara, Fernandez, Lagtapon, as well as the others victims of planted evidence and perjured testimonies, will be eventually dismissed and disposed of. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Court clears NDFP peace consultant Rafael Baylosis and companion

By Joseph Cuevas

The Regional Trial Court Branch 100 in Quezon City dismissed the cases of illegal possession of firearms and explosives against National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Rafael Baylosis and companion Guillermo Roque.

In a 27-page decision last January 15, Judge Editha Miña-Aguba pointed out the illegality of the police surveillance and arrest.

The judge said evidence must be believable and must come from a credible witness, something the charges against Baylosis and Roque failed to show.

According to Public Interest Law Center (PILC) lawyers, the arrest against Baylosis and Roque January last year was illegal because the police insisted that the accused were roaming through Manila and Quezon City with guns tucked in their waists and toted around a bag of red rice with a grenade inside.

Baylosis’s defense poked holes into their story, pointing out not only lapses but grievous procedural mistakes, and thus exposed concerted, malicious efforts to fabricate the charges, the defense lawyers said.

PILC added that the dismissal of Baylosis case proved not only his innocence but exposes the police illegal actions, undue surveillance, illegal arrest, planting of evidences and filling of trumped up charges against peace consultants and political activists.

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said he is glad about the development.

“Mabuting nadismiss ang charges of illegal gun possesion sa kaso ni Raffy dahil napatunayan na planted ang evidence,” Sison told Kodao.

“Dapat ganoon din ang mangyari sa kaso nina Vic Ladlad, Rey Casambre at iba pang plinantahan ng mga baril at explosive,” Sison added.

Lengua De Guzman, daughter of Baylosis and convenor of Free Raffy Baylosis Committee, said they are looking to file counter charges against the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police and the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines as well as all other participants in the fabrication of criminal charges.

The dismissal followed Judge Aguba’s decision granting the demurer to evidence last June 2018 in favor of another peace consultant Ruben Saluta and his companions who were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives, citing the broken chain of custody and inconsistency of witnesses’ testimonies against Saluta and company.

In November 2015, Judge Aguba also acquitted NDF consultant Eduardo Serrano in a multiple murder case for the failure of prosecution to identify him as “Rogelio Villanueva”.

Serrano, who was imprisoned for 11 years, died in detention last January 2016 due to cardiac arrest.

Baylosis was the first peace consultant arrested last January 2018 after President Duterte unilaterally terminated the peace negotiations and made a crackdown against peace consultants.

Adelberto Silva, Vicente Ladlad and Rey Claro Casambrewere arrested in October, November and December 2018, respectively. #

Judge who ordered arrest of Satur et. al. inhibits, prosecutors mum

Nueva Ecija public prosecutors refused to comment on a motion for reconsideration on double murder charges and warrants of arrests against four activist leaders at a hearing in Palayan City Friday morning, August 3.

Lawyers of National Anti-Poverty Commission lead convenor Liza Maza and fellow former Makabayan bloc representatives Satur Ocampo, Rafael Mariano and Teddy Casiño told reporters in a press briefing outside the Palayan Regional Trial Court (RTC) that the prosecutors had no comment when asked about the motions.

“When the public prosecutors were asked to comment on the motion for reconsideration, they simply submitted it to the judge’s discretion,” Public Interest Law Center (PILC) managing counsel Rachel Pastores said.

“This made the hearing very quick; travel time from Manila to here was in fact longer,” Pastores added.

Dozens of activists travelled to Nueva Ecija early Friday morning and held a picket in front of Palayan City RTC Branch 40 to support the four leaders.

August 1, 2018 inhibition order by Judge Evelyn A. Atienza-Turla.

Judge Evelyn Atienza-Turla inhibited herself from the case since last August 1 and the case was raffled off to Judge Trece Wenceslao instead.

Turla issued arrest orders against the four last July 11 stemming from a 2006 double murder charge against them.

The judge, who told the public prosecutor in July 2008 that the case did not meet her standards, reversed herself and said in an order that she now finds probable cause to proceed with the trial against the four accused.

Pastores said they are hoping that the court would decide on their motion within 10 days as the arrest order is “unjust and without legal basis.”

The double murder charge stemmed from a complaint by a Cleotilde Peralta and an Isabelita Bayudang who alleged that the four activist leaders met in 1998 to plan the assassination of former Bayan Muna (BM) members who have left the party.

Peralta said her husband was ran over and killed in 2001 while Bayudang said her husband was shot to death in 2004 upon orders of the four accused and others.

In 2016, Peralta and Bayudang were found liable for damages in a civil suit and were ordered to pay P325,000 to Ocampo by Quezon City RTC Branch 95.

The QC RTC said Peralta and Bayudang lied when they alleged BM already existed in 1998 when it was in fact created only in 2000.

Peralta and Bayudang’s petition to have Bayan Muna disqualified using the same allegations were also dismissed by the Commission on Elections in 2008. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Satur’s lawyers seek his dismissal from DOJ list

Lawyers have asked the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 19 to dismiss the petition against former Representative Saturnino “Satur” Ocampo in connection with the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) move to have the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) proscribed as terrorist organizations.

In a notice of special apperance filed Wednesday, March 20, the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) said the respondent in the DOJ petition were the CPP and the NPA and not Ocampo.

“Obviously, there is a material discrepancy between the statements in the summons and the allegations in the petition,” the PILC motion said.

“The summons indubitably designated movant Ocampo as a party respondent, in the stead of the actual respondents, the CPP and the NPA,” it added.

Ocampo was among hundreds listed in the DOJ petition as “known officers” of the CPP and the NPA the Rodrigo Duterte government wanted proscribed as terrorist organizations.

The PILC however denied Ocampo is a party to the instant [DOJ] proceeding.

“The Honorable Court cannot indulge on the drastically erroneous premise that movant is a respondent, as there is no basis whatsoever to implead him,” the PILC said.

The lawyers said Ocampo vehemently denies he is an officer, a member or even a representative the CPP and the NPA and therefore has no legal, vested, material interest insofar as the petition for proscription of the CPP and NPA is concerned.

In the PILC motion’s prefatory statement, Ocampo said, “I am Saturnino Ocampo. Journalist. I am NOT a terrorist.”

PILC said Ocampo cannot be made party to the instant proceeding against the CPP and the NPA that are entities with personalities separate from his.

“[N]othing in the [DOJ] petition and its annexes indicate that movant Saturnino Ocampo is indeed an officer, member or representative of the CPP and NPA,” PILC said.

The PILC said annexes to the DOJ petition naming Ocampo as one of the members of the CPP Central Committee were all issued in 2006 and has also failed to prove he still remains as member or officer of the CPP and the NPA.

Ocampo served as Bayan Muna Representative in the 12th to 14th Congress in 2001 to 2010. He currently serves as the chairperson of the Makabayan Coalition that has seven representatives in the 17th Congress.

Ocampo’s lawyers have also denied he has committed any terrorist act.

“It is respectfully prayed of the Honorable Court that the instant Petition BE DISMISSED for lack of jurisdiction over the person of movant Saturnino Ocampo and for failure of the petition to state a cause of action against him,” PILC said.

The PILC motion is the first to be filed against the DOJ petition to have the CPP and the NPA proscribed as terrorist organizations. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)