MANILA -- Multiple murder cases filed against former Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo and four others will soon move at the Manila Regional Trial Court after a seven-year hiatus.
Voting 15-0, the Supreme Court (SC) dismissed on Tuesday the consolidated petitions filed by Ocampo, Randall Echanis, Rafael Baylosis and Vicente Ladlad assailing the hearing of cases involving the discovery of a mass grave in Inopacan, Leyte in August 2006.
The mass grave, which was dug up by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), allegedly contained bones of some 65 people believed to be members of the New People's Army (NPA) who were suspected of tipping military officials about the communist rebels' operations.
Then AFP chief General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. accused Ocampo, Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Maria Sison and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace negotiator Luis Jalandoni as signatories to the execution orders in the 1980s.
Ocampo denied any involvement in the killings but the Hilongos, Leyte RTC branch 18, which first handled the cases, still issued arrest warrants against him and other respondents.
The former lawmaker and company questioned the arrest order before the SC.
Ocampo's argument centered on the "political offense doctrine" that a crime such as murder is absorbed by a political offense like rebellion "when the common crime (murder) is committed as a necessary means, in connection with or in furtherance thereof."
However, the SC said the doctrine cannot be used as ground to dismiss the case against Ocampo and other respondents "prior to a determination by a trial court that the murders were committed in furtherance of rebellion."
The respondents are currently free due to the bail granted by the SC years back. Echanis, Baylosis and Ladlad are consultants of the NDFP negotiating panel to the peace talks with the government.
"Petitioners...shall remain on temporary liberty under the same bail granted by this Court until the termination of the criminal case or under the actual participation of petitioners Echanis, Baylosis and Ladlad as CPP-NDF consultants in the peace negotiation with the government are concluded or terminated, whichever is sooner," the SC said.
The Joint Agreement on Immunity and Security Guarantees signed by the government and the NDFP in February 1995 entitles peace consultants to immunity from arrest, detention, filing of trumped up charges, conviction and other antagonistic actions that prevent them from effectively performing their role in the peace talks.
The negotiations have been stalled since June last year. (Sunnex)