‘Bones?’ | Accused NDFP consultants question Leyte mass grave evidence

Wilma Austria and Benito Tiamzon, consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in its peace negotiations with the government, attend the pre-trial hearing at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, Aug. 11. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea/ Bulatlat.com)
Wilma Austria and Benito Tiamzon, consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in its peace negotiations with the government, attend the pre-trial hearing at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, Aug. 11. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea/ Bulatlat.com)

“These may be pieces of evidence, but not bone fragments.”

By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Lawyers of the accused peace consultants and progressive activists charged with multiple murder in relation to the purported Leyte mass grave expressed “irregularities” in the skulls and bone fragments presented as evidence before a Manila Trial court today, June 8.

Prosecution witness Pol. Supt. Herardo Hermosilla took the witness stand for the second time to identify the supposed bones kept under custody of the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory. Hermosilla led the team that exhumed the alleged mass grave in 2006.

Defense lawyers, however, doubted the prosecutors’ claim about the skulls and fragments of bones from the alleged mass grave in Inopacan, Leyte.

“These may be pieces of evidence, but not bone fragments,” said lawyer Ernesto Francisco Jr., counsel for accused National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Vicente Ladlad.

He added that the “bones” presented may not belong to a human but perhaps to an animal. He jested it may even belong to a baby dinosaur.

Francisco argued before the court that there appears to be “drill holes and rectangular, neatly-cut holes” in the presented bones.

Ephraim Cortez, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers assistant secretary general for legal services, said that some of the presented evidence had no “case identifier number,” which witness Hermosilla earlier said was used to identify the bones.

Cortez also noted that some that some fragments of alleged bones were not individually tagged and bore no signatures or initials of the person who collected it from the alleged mass grave.

“It is a requirement in crime scene investigation that evidence must be individually tagged,” Francisco said, noting that it would have been very easy to individually tag the supposed bone fragments.

Ladlad and other NDFP peace consultants and known progressive activists have assailed that the charges were instigated by the now defunct Interagency Legal Action Group (IALAG) and is being continued as part of the counterinsurgency program to silence government critics.

At least 54 persons are accused in the same multiple murder case, including exiled Prof. Jose Maria Sison, NDFP peace consultants Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Austria, Randall Echanis, Rafael Baylosis, Eduardo Sarmiento, Jaime Soledad and Makabayan coalition chair and former lawmaker Satur Ocampo. Missing NDFP consultants Leo Velasco and Prudencio Calubid are also among the accused, as well as John and Jane Does.

There are currently 541 political prisoners in the country. Human rights group Karapatan said more than half were arrested and detained under outgoing President Benigno S. Aquino III.

Next hearing is set on Aug. 10 and 11.
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