Lawyers for former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo filed several petitions to suspend the proceedings and dismiss the class suit, but all were denied.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA –Legal counsels of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo did not show up in yesterday’s mediation proceedings for the civil case filed by the United Churches of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP).
The UCCP filed in June 2011 a damage suit against Arroyo for human rights violations committed against UCCP leaders and members during the nine-year rule of Arroyo as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. More than 18 UCCP members were killed, one disappeared, three ambushed and wounded and four arrested, detained and tortured.
All civil cases go through the mediation process. The mediation for the UCCP case was scheduled Sept. 26 at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court-Branch 224.
Lawyer for the UCCP Emilio Capulong told members of the protestant church, “They [Arroyo’s camp] were not there. They were duly notified. They ignored the process of the court. It means they are not interested in mediation.”
“Today is a historic and important day for our case as the mediation signals the beginning of the formal process of the case,” he said. “After quite a long time, after attempts to delay the proceedings, it has now started.”
Capulong explained that Arroyo’s camp filed several motions to dismiss the case or suspend the proceedings. “All the preliminary motions were denied. We are thankful for the decisions of the court in our favor.”
Arroyo filed motion to dismiss the civil suit before the local court. Honorable Judge Tita Marilyn Payoyo-Villordon of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court-Branch 224 denied her motion. She filed a motion for reconsideration and the court once again denied it. She then appealed the decision of the local court before the Court of Appeals and asked the appellate court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the trial. The CA denied her petition for TRO.
In a statement, Bishop Art Asi of the UCCP South Luzon Jurisdictional Area, said, “Even if the wheels of justice turn slowly, we will persist in our call for accountability. The courts must dare to hold perpetrators of human rights violations accountable and stop their heinous crimes.”
Asi said the UCCP General Assembly mandated the legal action in support of the victims of extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, abduction and torture, and other serious human rights violations. “We stand for the victims and we stand with their families who have also suffered greatly due to abhorrent, state-perpetrated human rights violations,” he said.
Asi noted that extra judicial killings and human rights violations continue in the Philippines have not ended. “We stand firm for an end the climate of impunity,” Asi said.
Speaking before fellow UCCP members outside the Quezon City Hall of Justice, Jophet Domingo, son of the late Rev. Raul Domingo, thanked all those who continue to support the families of victims. Rev. Domingo was gunned down on the street in Puerto Princesa, Palawan in 2005.
“It gives us strength to have the Church stand with us in our pursuit of justice. To be financially indemnified through this civil suit carries with it a message: what was done to our loved ones is an offense to society, an offense to humanity,” Domingo said.
UCCP members held a prayer vigil simultaneous with the mediation hearing.
Ephraim Cortez of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said it is important to hold Arroyo accountable for human rights violations. He said there are also other cases filed against Arroyo, such as the damage suit filed by the Morong 43 health workers.