Tiamzon couple insists murder raps fabricated

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POLITICAL prisoners Wilma Tiamzon and Benito Tiamzon reiterated that the murder charges filed against them were fabricated by the military.

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In a hearing last Thursday, Edwin Zata of the Philippine National Police –Region 8 said he was part of the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) team who went to the alleged mass grave in Inopacan, Leyte in August 2006.

The Tiamzon couple is among the 70 who were charged in connection with the alleged mass grave.

The military tagged the Tiamzon couple as top-ranking leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army. They were arrested in Cebu.

“Based on Zata’s testimony, it is clear that the Army’s 43rd Infantry Battalion is behind all of this,” Wilma told Bulatlat.com shortly after the hearing at the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 32.

Military’s hand
Zata told the court that elements of the Army’s 43rd IB “briefed” the SOCO team and led them to the alleged mass grave.

Zata also said that when they reached the site, about six civilians were already digging and skeletal remains and clothes were on the surface.

Judge Thelma Bunyi-Medina asked Zata: “Did it not occur to you to order the men to stop the digging?” Zata replied in the negative.

Medina also asked Zata if he bothered to get the names of the civilians. Zata said, “No.”

Zata said his team washed the skulls and marked each with a number. Asked by Medina on the number of skulls, Zata replied, “More or less 30 or 31.”

The police officer also said that two civilians brought two more sacks of skeletal remains to the site. Zata said they were told that the remains came from the other side of the mountain.

Rachel Pastores, one of the defense lawyers, said the SOCO team’s methods of identifying the alleged victims are “questionable.”

Pastores added that Zata’s testimony is different from his statement during the hearing on the bail petitions of the accused.

Travelling skeletons
Pastores reiterated that the Hilongos case is “recycled.”

Pastores said five of the alleged victims, whose skeletal remains were allegedly found in Monterico village, Baybay, Leyte on June 27, 2000 were the same alleged victims in the Hilongos case, whose skeletal remains were allegedly found on August 26, 2006 in Mt. Sapang Dako, Inopacan, Leyte.

“The victims died twice and their bodies were found in two different places,” Pastores said.

Zata failed to finish his testimony due to errors in the marking of pieces of evidence of the prosecution.

The next hearing is scheduled on February 9.

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