By: Tetch Torres-Tupas – Reporter / INQUIRER.net / October 12, 2021
MANILA, Philippines—MANILA, Philippines—After over 30 years of waiting, the Antipolo Regional Trial Court Branch 97 found the members of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) guilty for the death of labor leader Atty. Rolando “Ka Lando” Olalia and unionist Leonor Alay-ay.
Found guilty for two counts of murder are Fernando Casanova, Dennis Jabatan, and Desiderio Perez. They are meted with the penalty of up to 40 years imprisonment (reclusion perpetua) and each is ordered to pay a total of P2.1-million civil indemnity and damages to the heirs of Olalia and Alay-ay. The three are the only arrested accused. One is detained in Rizal, the other is detained at the Cainta jail while the other one is detained at the Antipolo Jail.
One of the accused, Col. Red Kapunan, is currently the Philippines’ Ambassador to Germany. He was cleared in 2016 after the court granted his demurrer to evidence. A demurrer to evidence is in effect a motion to dismiss anchored on the ground that the evidence presented is insufficient.
The other nine accused are still at large.
“Our victory today has only stiffened our resolve to never abandon our search for the remaining nine men involved in our father’s brutal killing,” Atty. Rolando Rico Olalia, son of Ka Lando said in a statement.
How the court ruled?
Under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, a person shall be guilty of murder if any of the six circumstances are present.
In this case, the court said there is evident premeditation after a witness gave details about the planning and surveillance prior to the abduction of Olalia and Alay-ay in November 1986. Evident premeditation means there was an opportunity to reflect on the actions of the accused but still carried out the crime.
“There should be no doubt, therefore, that the qualifying circumstance of evident premeditation, has been satisfactorily proved,” the court said.
Another circumstance mentioned is the abuse of superior strength when three vehicles carrying more than 10 officers on board abducted Olalia and Alay-ay.
“The Court has carefully sifted through the volumes of records of these cases and is fully convinced that the prosecution was able to establish beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of the accused in these cases,” read the decision.
Witness said Jabatan stabbed Olalia twice. The same witness said Jabatan told him that Olay-ay was taken by another group. Another witness said he was with Jabatan and Perez when they brought the two to a safehouse in Cubao after they were abducted in Pasig.
On the other hand, the witness identified Casanova as the one who took Alay-aya from his vehicle.
Perez denied his participation saying he was in Olongapo when the crime occurred. The court, however, said no other evidence was presented to support his claim. Casanova, on the other hand, said he was no longer in service when the crime occurred. But the court was not convinced given the positive testimony of eyewitnesses.
Jabatan, meanwhile was not able to complete his testimony due to problems with his counsel. Jabatan also said he was already given an amnesty by the National Amnesty Commission. But the court said the murder was not covered by the amnesty.
“Suffice it to say that ‘defenses of denial and alibi, such are inconsequential. Alibi and denial are inherently weak defenses and must be brushed aside when the prosecution has sufficiently and positively ascertained the identity of the accused as in this case. It is axiomatic that positive testimony prevails over negative testimony,” the court said.
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said that while the Antipolo Court’s decision give relief, they still have the “tinge of frustration” as only three accused have been convicted.
“On the one hand, others who are allegedly involved – based on the disturbing testimonial evidence of the prosecution – remain off the hook and are in our midst. Nine of those formally charged are still at large despite 35 years on the run,” NUPL’s Atty. Edre Olalia said.
Olalia said, “for the families of the victims, the judicial proceedings from one court to another were too protracted, the legal tactics were over-utilized, and twists and turns at different junctures, levels and fora were exasperating.”
Teddy Casiño of BAYAN shares the same sentiment who, at a press conference, said: “This victory, while it is welcome, it is too little, too late.”
He called the decision “partial victory.”
Both Casiño and Kilusang Mayo Uno leader Elmer “Bong” Labog said the three who were convicted are only the foot soldiers.
“Only when Cirilo Almario, Jose Bacera, Ricardo Dicon, Gilbert Galicia, Oscar Legaspi, Filomeno Maligaya, Gene Paris, Freddie Sumagaysay, Edger Sumido—and all the other unnamed principals—who have managed to evade the long arm of the law have been found and brought before the courts to be held accountable for their crimes will justice be finally served,” Atty. Rolando Rico Olalia said.
WHAT WENT BEFORE: The Olalia-Alay-ay double murder case
(Reposting this article originally published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on October 11, 2012.)
On November 13, 1986, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) leader Rolando Olalia and his driver Leonor Alay-ay were found dead in Antipolo, Rizal. Their bodies were mutilated beyond recognition. A scar on Olalia’s leg was the only identifying mark that confirmed his identity.
The National Bureau of Investigation, in its report to then President Corzaon Aquino in 1986, said the killings were a prelude to the staging of “God Save the Queen,” a coup plot by Rebolusyonaryong Alyansang Makabansa (RAM) to rid the Aquino Cabinet of left-leaning members.
In April 1987, Task Force Olalia, which was formed to investigate the killings, filed two counts of murder against Gilberto Galicia and Sgt. Franco Espartero in the Antipolo Regional Trial Court.
In June 1990, Judge Marietta Legaspi acquitted Espartero for failure of the prosecution to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt, while Galicia was discharged and made a state witness.
In January 1998, the Department of Justice (DOJ) revived the case as a new witness, former T/Sgt. Medardo Dumlao Barreto came forward, implicating several RAM leaders in the surveillance and abduction of Olalia and Alay-ay.
Barreto said he surfaced out of fear as several military men who knew about the murders were ordered killed or mysteriously died in the past years.
Several parties called on the justice department to look into the possible involvement of Sen. Gregorio Honasan, a RAM leader at the time of the murders.
In his 14-page sworn statement, Barreto said M/Sgt. Felizardo Cabanilla, transport officer of the then Ministry of National Defense, had boasted to him that he was personally ordered by Honasan to “clean up” the mess left behind by the vehicle used in tailing Olalia’s car.
Asked later to qualify his statement, Barreto said he did not directly implicate Honasan, stressing that Honasan’s supposed order was relayed by a third person, Cabanilla.
Honasan said he had “absolutely nothing to do” with the plot, and stressed that he participated only in three coup attempts against President Corazon Aquino. He said the “God Save the Queen” plot which allegedly involved the abduction and murder of Olalia was not among those hatched by the RAM.
2 murder cases
In May 1998, a five-man DOJ panel filed two separate cases of murder against 13 RAM members in the Antipolo Regional Trial Court.
Charged were retired Colonels Eduardo Kapunan and Col. Tirso Legaspi, ex-Capt. Ricardo Dicon, ex-Sergeants Gene Paris, Edgardo Sumido and Dennis Jabatan, ex-Staff Sergeants Freddie Sumagaysay and Jose Bacera, ex-Cpl. Cirilo Almario, ex-Staff Sgt. Fernando Casanova, ex-Sergeants Desiderio Perez and Filomeno Maligaya and Gilberto Galicia.
The DOJ panel said the 13 respondents, “with evident premeditation,” conspired and mutually helped one another, in killing the victims by taking advantage of their superior strength with the aid of armed men.
Kapunan and Legaspi sought immunity from prosecution, arguing that Proclamation No. 347 granted by President Fidel Ramos to rebel soldiers “extinguished their criminal liability.”
They said political assassinations, such as the Olalia-Alay-ay double murder case, could have been part of simulated events intended to create an unstable situation favorable for a coup.
In 2009, the Supreme Court dismissed their petition and ordered the filing of murder charges.
In February 2012, the Antipolo City Regional Trial Court issued arrest warrants against the 13 suspects.
On July 24, Perez surrendered to authorities and later pleaded “not guilty” to the murder charges. Inquirer Research
Sources: Inquirer Archives