Karapatan: Preposterous Hilongos “mass grave” case used for political persecution

On September 18, 2019, the Hilongos “mass grave” case is set to undergo another hearing where the prosecution is expected to present another witness. Karapatan deputy secretary general Roneo Clamor has called the recycling of the Hilongos case as a “circus that is kept alive for political persecution.”

Clamor noted that the case has already led to the issuance of warrants of arrest to 37 alleged communist leaders, including NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison who was in detention during the time that the alleged massacre was committed. Names of missing NDFP consultants Leo Velasco and Prudencio Calubid were also included in the warrant, as well as that of detained peace consultant Eduardo Sarmiento. 

The Karapatan official emphasized that the Inopacan mass grave case in 2006, which was filed in a Hilongos court in 2007, was an offshoot of the Baybay, Leyte mass grave. The Baybay case was likewise blamed on leftist individuals and groups, but was later on dismissed in 2005 for lack of evidence.

“The dismissed Baybay case, which later branched into the new Hilongos case, involved the same alleged victims and was filed by the same prosecutor. This prosecutor had full knowledge of the merits that led to the dismissal of the Baybay case, including the dubious testimonies of false witnesses, yet he continued to proceed with another stupendous mass grave story.  The instant multiple murder charges generated from this trumped-up case is what State forces are after. They are giddy to exploit such a grandiose lie for political persecution,” said Clamor. 

Clamor added that this is likewise the continuation of the dirty tactics used by the now-abolished Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG) under then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. He noted that “the formation of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Action (IACLA) in 2017 picked up tricks from IALAG’s playbook, and resurrected many of the lies that the former has started.  IACLA should likewise be abolished on the same basis which led to IALAG’s dissolution, primarily for masterminding the filing of trumped-up charges against activists, critics, and left-leaning groups. Duterte’s militarist Cabinet is littered with Arroyo’s favorite butchers, thus we see a discernible similarity in trends and modus operandi.” 

The Karapatan official explained that the Hilongos case is fraught with irregularities: “A quick look into the details of the two cases show that three names were included in both the Baybay case and the Inopacan case – that of Gregorio Eras, Concepcion Aragon, and Juanito Aviola. The three were now ridiculously alleged to have been killed and buried twice in different locations, a stupendous story now dubbed as the case of the travelling skeletons. Also, there was no proper inventory of the evidence, no DNA testing was done to ascertain the bones indeed belonged to individuals named in the case, the military had initial custody of the items, and the alleged clothes recovered were suspiciously washed, soaked, and dried before it was kept for evidence.”

“The Hilongos case is built on tampered evidence, perjured and recycled testimonies, and a curious case of travelling bones. This discredited and recycled case, alongside the reprisal and retaliatory sedition and perjury charges against critics, further demonstrates the government’s vindictive and repressive crusade. We thus call for the dismissal of this case, the abolition of the PNP-AFP IACLA, and an end to all repressive polices used to justify attacks and reprisals against all Filipinos,” Clamor ended.