THE Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday gave the green light to prosecute former Rep. Satur Ocampo of Bayan Muna party-list and several officials of the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front (CPP-NDF) in connection with the multiple murder raps filed against them in connection with the mass grave discovered in Leyte in 2006.
During the SC’s en banc deliberations, the Justices with a unanimous vote of 15 to 0, dismissed the petition filed by Ocampo, Randall Echanis, Rafael Baylosis and Vicente Ladlad.
The SC has mandated the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 32 to proceed with dispatch with the hearing of the criminal charges.
“Wherefore, the instant petition are dismissed. The RTC of Manila Branch 32 is hereby ordered to proceed with dispatch with the hearing of Criminal Case 08-262-163,” the SC said.
Despite murder being a non-bailable offense, the high court ruled to allow Ocampo and others to remain at liberty under the bail earlier issued by the SC en banc.
The 15-man tribunal took into consideration the peace process which the government has been conducting with the CPP-NPA-NDF.
“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 high court pointed out.
Ocampo was charged with 15 counts of murder for the death of about 50 persons found in a mass grave dug-up by authorities, which was discovered by the 43rd Infantry Brigade of Philippine Army in Sitio Sapang Daco, Barangay Kaulisihan, Inopacan, Leyte. The victims were killed 23 years ago and Ocampo and company were charged in court for the crime.
A no-bail order was issued by the lower court in Leyte, which forced them to file a petition for certiorari yesterday at the SC. This is to question the grave abuse of discretion committed by the lower court in issuing the arrest warrant.
According to Ocampo, the case against them should have been dismissed as it has already exceed the prescription period since the crime happened 23 years ago.
Ocampo also stated that the mass grave which implicated him in the crime was fake and was orchestrated by then AFP chief of staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon.