Karapatan lauds conviction of Bayles soldier-killers, Manila court dismissal of motion for recon in travelling-skeletons case

Karapatan lauds the conviction of the two soldiers of the 61st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, namely Private First Class (PFC) Rafael Cordova (a.k.a. Roger Bajon) and PFC Reygine Laus (a.k.a. Ronnie Caurino), on the murder of human rights activist Benjamin Bayles, a member of the September 21 Movement-Negros. Bayles was also a lay minister of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente and a coordinator of Bayan Muna Party-list.

In the decision by Acting Presiding Judge Ana Celeste Bernad of the Regional Trial Court Branch (RTC) 42 in Bacolod City, she considered the testimonies of the prosecution’s witnesses as “positive, straightforward, and without any ill motive.”

Additionally, Bayles’ family and witnesses had shown great fortitude despite several threats from soldiers after the case was filed. The tireless efforts of the prosecutors and private counsels, one of them the slain human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, were complemented by the persistent advocacy for justice by groups and communities and international monitoring by foreign governments, solidarity groups and NGOs, for more than ten years after Bayles’ killing.

The case of Bayles reaffirmed what the facts and circumstances on his killing and that of many victims of extrajudicial executions and human rights violations during Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s bloody term have shown all along — that State security forces are behind such crimes against activists and members of progressive groups and that extrajudicial killings are indispensable component of the government’s counterinsurgency program.

Karapatan also welcomes the decision of the RTC Branch 42 in Manila, dismissing the motion for reconsideration on the dismissal of the trumped-up multiple murder charges against former Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo, peace consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, former Bohol mayor Exuperio Lloren, and peasant leaders.

Contrary to the lies repeatedly harped on by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, the trumped-up case is built on tampered evidence of absurdly travelling remains of individuals and perjured and recycled testimonies. This case, alongside all the cases against political prisoners and critics, further demonstrates the government’s vindictive and repressive crusade — one that is based on pure lies and unhinged fascist minds.

We hope that with these successive court decisions, as well as those that affirmed the innocence of illegally arrested and detained progressives in the past few months, the struggle for justice and accountability against human rights violations will persist amid the infrastructure of impunity in the country.

Cristina Palabay
Karapatan Secretary General