Top military officers a no-show at the amparo hearing

Jul. 05, 2009

Davao Today

Lawyer Carlos Isagani, one of the three Davao lawyers, who filed a writ of amparo against the military for including their names in the Order of Battle list. Military officers fail to appear on the first hearing.( photo by Barry Ohaylan)

DAVAO CITY — High-ranking military officers earlier named in the Davao lawyers’ petition for writ of amparo failed to show up in court for the scheduled hearing on Wednesday.

This was the second time that Judge Jose Manuel Castillo of the Regional Trial Court Branch 10 called a hearing on the amparo petitions of Davao-based lawyers, Carlos Isagani Zarate, Lilibeth Ladaga and Angela Librado-Trinidad.

The petition sprung from the inclusion of the lawyers’ names in the military Order of Battle (OB) list earlier leaked by Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo to the media.

But respondents Major General Reynaldo Mapagu, commanding officer of the 10th Infantry Division; Lt. Col. Kurt Decapia, chief, 10th ID Public Affairs Office; and Col. Oscar Lactao, head of the Task Force Davao, were in Manila for a prior commitment, counsel for the respondents Emmanuel Caluya explained.

Only one of the respondents, Davao City police chief Sr. Supt. Ramon Apolinario, came to the hearing. Apolinario said he only assumed his post in 2008, hence, he did not know anything about the list, which was supposedly made in 2007.

The military officers’ no-show in court happened amidst reports of a shake-up in the region’s military hierarchy.

Captain Abubakar Katambak of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Division Judge Advocate General’s Office, one of the counsels of the respondents, confirmed reports on the change of command.

Genera Mapagu will be reassigned to two infantry divisions. We do not know yet who will replace him, Abubakar told Davao Today in an interview after the hearing.

Lawyer Caesar Europa, one of the counsels for the petitioners, asked the court for the presence of the police and military officers, stressing that the danger his clients face are real.

We are holding this hearing as the third one has died, Europa told the court. He was referring to Dr. Rogelio Peera, an epidemiologist at the Department of Health, killed on June 24 by unidentified gunmen. Peera was a council member of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), an organization listed in the Order of Battle.

Europa showed the court the power point document JCICC Agila, 3rd Qtr 2007 OB Validation Report, that contained over 70 slides linking over a hundred organizations and individuals with the Communist movement.

Ocampo disclosed the document to the media in May but the military repeatedly denied that such a list existed. Military officers also insisted that Ocampo fabricated the list. Invited to come to the hearing to testify, Ocampo was not yet able to give a testimony.

The burden to prove on whether the alleged OB document is authentic rests on the petitioners, respondents’ lawyer Caluya told the media after the hearing.

But Ocampo said statements from the military only proved the document was authentic.

Ocampo, during the interview, showed a military press release which accused him of presenting selected slides from the power point document. This means they have a copy of the document, Ocampo said.

He can’t reveal the source of the document yet because it will put to danger the life of the soldier who leaked it. He cited the case of Lt. Nancy Gadian, a navy officer based at the military’s Western Command. She was hunted after she made an expose on the alleged abnormalities involving the Balikatan RP-US Military Exercises funds.

As to who gave this document is not an issue here, Ocampo said. The issue is whether the document is authentic or not.

The writ of amparo, which took effect in October 2007, was the Supreme Court’s response to the alarming increase of human rights violations, cases of disappearance and extrajudicial killings in the country.

More than a thousand activists were killed in the country since democracy was restored. Most of the victims were tagged as having links with the communist movement, had received death threats, some of them even received information that they were in a military Order of Battle list before they were killed.

United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Professor Philip Alston two years ago called on the Philippine government to put a stop to the military policy of maintaining an Order of Battle against perceived enemies of the state.

The court set on July 9 the continuation of the hearing. (Cheryll D. Fiel/

comments powered by Disqus