Witness says military ordered digging of alleged mass graves twice

BULATLAT FILE PHOTO. (Standing) NDFP consultants accused in connection with the alleged mass graves in Inopacan, Leyte.
BULATLAT FILE PHOTO. (Standing) NDFP consultants accused in connection with the alleged mass graves in Inopacan, Leyte.

“Skeletal remains were supposedly dug up in 2006 in Inopacan, Leyte and before that was another digging made in 2000.”

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — A relative of alleged victims in the Leyte multiple murder case admitted in court that the military ordered him, along with others, to dig fo remains in alleged mass graves in two different places in separate incidents for two different cases.

Domingo Eras, whose father Domingo Sr. and brothers Gregorio and Leonardo were missing, said he went to the alleged mass grave in barangay Monterico, Baybay, Leyte on June 28, 2000 upon orders from the military.

Six years later, Eras, then a member of the Citizens Armed Force Geographical Unit (Cafgu), said he, along with six other Cafgu members, was ordered to go to an alleged mass grave in sitio Sapang Daco, barangay Kausilihan, Inopacan, Leyte.

In a hearing today, Oct. 28, before the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 32, defense lawyer Ernesto Francisco said Eras’s father and two brothers were among those allegedly found in the Baybay mass grave in June 2000. Francisco pointed out that the information in the Inopacan mass grave also includes Eras’s father as one of those supposedly dug up in August 2006.

During the cross examination, Francisco asked Eras if he was able to identify the skeletal remains of his relatives supposedly exhumed in Baybay. Eras replied in Waray, “I’m not sure, sir.”

Asked further how the Army’s 43rd Infantry Battalion was able to identify the victims, which became the basis for filing the case, Eras said he did not know.

When asked if he knew that the Baybay case was dismissed by a local court on Jan. 25, 2005 due to lack of probable cause, Eras, one of the complainants, said he did not know.

Vicente Ladlad, one of the more than 70 accused in the Inopacan case, said Eras’s testimony proves that the charges are manufactured. Ladlad, a peace consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), told Bulatlat shorty after the hearing that the military’s script was badly written.

“The fact that he was ordered by the military [to dig the graves] is very telling,” Ladlad said, noting that the prosecution did not mention this fact. It was Eras himself who said he was a Cafgu and presented identification cards issued by the Philippine Army during a hearing yesterday.

Prosecution lawyers objected several times to the questions hurled by Francisco, particularly about the complaints filed in the Baybay case. Prosecutor Winnie Edad said their witness is “uneducated and not competent” to answer questions pertaining to legal cases.

Prosecutor Rosulo Vivero, who filed the two separate information in Baybay and Inopacan, also opposed Francisco’s line of questioning about the two alleged mass graves.

Addressing the prosecution, Judge Thelma Bunyi-Medina said, “Why would it not affect the credibility of (your) witness? Skeletal remains were supposedly dug up in 2006 in Inopacan, Leyte and there was another digging made in 2000. Those are related matters.”

Ladlad found incredulous that the two alleged mass graves were found near the farm then hut of Floro Tinaid. Eras said Tinaid lived in barangay Kaulisihan, Baybay, Leyte from 1980 to 1985. Eras said Tinaid left the place because he was scared of New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas who allegedly frequented the place. Eras said Tinaid then moved to barangay Monterico, Inopacan.

Other NDFP peace panel member Benito Tiamzon, consultants Wilma Austria Tiamzon, Rafael Baylosis, Randall Echanis and Adelberto Silva are co-accused in the Inopacan mass grave case. They have been released on bail to be able to participate in the formal peace talks between the Government of the Philippines and the NDFP.

Rachel F. Pastores of the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) told Bulatlat that the NDFP’s legal counsels have asked the GRP panel to suspend the proceedings on the case to enable the NDFP consultants to focus on the peace talks. Pastores said the GRP has agreed but the court has yet to grant the petition. ()

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