“There should be no immunity from impunity. Responsibility will visit you over time. Maybe not instantly, immediately, or not in the near future, but it will catch up with you eventually.
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – The conviction of the two soldiers involved in the murder of activist Benjamin Bayles proves that extrajudicial executions are the work of the state and its agents, the president of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) has said. ), Edre Olalia.
On March 31, Ana Celeste B. Bernad, acting presiding judge of the Bacolod Branch 42 Regional Trial Court, found Private First Class Roger Bajon and PFC Ronnie Caurino guilty of Bayles’ murder. They were sentenced to 40 years in prison and ordered to pay Bayles’ heirs a total of 300,000 pesos ($5,722) in compensation and damages.
The decision came after nearly 12 years since June 14, 2010, when Bayles, while waiting for a ride in a populated barangay in the town of Himamaylan, Negros Occidental, was repeatedly shot dead by two men on a motorbike with helmets.
Bayles was the coordinator of Bayan Muna and a member of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente. The perpetrators were positively identified by their own commanders as members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines 61st Infantry Battalion during a 2013 hearing.
Read: Army admits Bayles killers are their own
“This is clear and indisputable proof that extrajudicial executions have been committed by state security forces, in this case by the military. The government cannot, with any credibility whatsoever, say that there are no extrajudicial executions, much less that its security forces do not engage in acts as atrocious and more than that, that this is an orchestrated and premeditated policy and practice,” Olalia said in an online interview with Bulatlat.
In a statement, human rights group Karapatan said the sentencing of the two soldiers also “reaffirmed what the facts and circumstances of his murder and that of numerous victims of extrajudicial executions and violations of human rights during the bloody tenure of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo have shown from the start – that state security forces are behind such crimes against activists and members of progressive groups and that Extrajudicial executions are an indispensable part of the government’s counter-insurgency program.
Karapatan documented 1,206 victims of extrajudicial executions under the Arroyo Oplan Bantay Laya 1 and 2 counterinsurgency program.
Read here for Bulatlat’s archive on Oplan Bayanihan.
“There should be no immunity from impunity. Responsibility will visit you over time. Maybe not instantly, immediately, or not in the near future, but it will catch up with you eventually. Even though this conviction can be considered a rarity due to the current legal system and political circumstances,” Olalia said.
Olalia also said the conviction may also serve as a warning to rank and file police and military officers who, in their defense of their crime, claim they were only following orders from their superiors.
“This conviction validates our observation that the highest ranks or those in command are generally prancing around. Unfortunately, these humble soldiers and police are left behind. It is therefore also a warning to these basic police and military personnel that they are not bound or obliged legally, much less morally, to follow wrongful or unjust orders. You cannot escape your own punishment. Olalia said.
Although the sentencing of the two soldiers was a victory, Olalia said it was hard to rejoice as one of the private lawyers, Ben Ramos, was killed while the case was pending.
“It’s the biggest tragedy of all this. It took us 12 years, Ben Bayles is gone and Ben Ramos is gone too,” Olalia said.
It is such an irony, he said, that those seeking justice for his client have also been victims of extrajudicial executions, which is why, Olalia said, it is bittersweet.
Red-tagging victim Ramos was killed in November 2018.
“The celebration is muted. It’s like the feeling of someone close to you who passed the bar exam but on the one hand your other friend didn’t pass,” Olalia said, adding that he and Ramos went together. in Himamaylan, amid security threats, for the hearing before she was transferred to a Bacolod city court. Himamaylan is a third-class component city, 83 kilometers from Bacolod.
Justice can be obtained
Olalia said it can take time to get justice, but it’s possible if combined with a metal-legal approach.
He cited the sentencing of Major General Jovito Palparan which also took years and the sentencing of the murderers and torturers of trade union leader Rolando Olalia and trade unionist Leonor Alay-ay which took three decades.
Read: History | The murder case of 35-year-old Olalia-Alay-ay
These successful legal pushbacks, Olalia said, are a success despite the difficulties and dangers faced by human rights defenders, lawyers, relatives and others.
Olalia also stressed the importance of continued case support, vigilance and perseverance.
“Because what you are looking for, you are highlighting so that the public knows it and those who judge are more careful, more circumspect and more aware in basing their decision on the law and the facts,” Olalia said. (RTS, RVO)