OLALIA, Rolando "Ka Lando"

From http://www.interaksyon.com/article/42354/26-years-after-ka-landos-murder...

MANILA, Philippines -- As proceedings opened against one of 13 former soldiers accused of torturing and murdering labor leader Rolando Olalia 26 years ago, a lawyer of the family admitted they were disheartened by the reception given them by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who, with Witness Protection Program executive director Martin Menez, represented one of the suspects.

Lawyer Rolando Rico Olalia, the labor leader’s son, told InterAksyon.com their family is “pagod na at hirap maka-move on (tired and finding it hard to move on).” At what would have been his father’s 75th birthday on Monday, September 3, he said his mother told him she thinks the so-called breakthrough in the case -- the July 24 surrender of one of the accused, Sergeant Desiderio Perez -- was “lokohan” (a charade).

Pero laban pa rin (But we will still fight),” the younger Olalia said.

Perez is undergoing a pre-trial conference at the Department of Justice Wednesday afternoon.

In 2000, the De Lima-Menez law firm represented Lieutenant Colonel Eduardo “Red” Kapunan Jr.

Like Kapunan and Perez, those accused of brutally murdering Olalia and his driver, Leonor Alay-ay, in November 1986 are members of the Rebolusyonaryong Alyansang Makabayan, then known as the Reform the Armed Forces movement, a military clique that helped trigger the 1986 People’s Power uprising that toppled the Marcos dictatorship when they tried to mount a coup but failed.

Soon after, the RAM embarked on several coup attempts against the fledgling government of then President Corazon Aquino.

In February this year, Regional Trial Court Branch 98 Judge Ma. Consejo Gengos-Ignalaga issued warrants of arrest against the accused.

Aside from Kapunan and Perez, they are Chief Petty Officer Cirilo Almario, Sgt. Jose Bacera, Sgt. Fernando Casanova, Capt. Ricardo Dicon, informer Gilbert Galicia, Sgt. Dennis Jabatan, Lt. Col. Oscar Legaspi, Chief Petty Officer Filomeno Maligaya, Sgt. Gene Paris, Sgt. Freddie Sumagaysay, and Sgt. Edgar Sumido.

Despite the Olalias’ misgivings, the continued support from labor and lawyer’ groups has provided some encouragement.

At the resumption of the court hearings today, the National Union of People’s Lawyers issued a statement demanding that the Aquino government help facilitate the case.

“If there is any case that decidedly demonstrates the frustration of the victims’ families and if there is any proven template for impunity for extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations, it is this case which have not even reached the trial stage,” said the NUPL, which has joined the Public Interest Law Center and the family’s lawyers to prosecute the case.

“After years of struggle for the case of Ka Lando and Leonor, our justice system remains sluggish, if not totally dormant in chasing after the perpetrators who, based on the evidence, were as cold-blooded as they were ruthless and powerful. In fact, some of them have reportedly been given or taken positions in public office,” the NUPL said.

Meeting with De Lima ‘disheartening’

Rolando Rico Olalia, together with the human rights group Karapatan, met with De Lima last Friday to request three things to help facilitate the progress of the case: to create a panel of prosecutors from the Department of Justice-Manila help Antipolo prosecutors effectively prosecute the case; check on the status of state witnesses Sgts. Medardo Barretto and Eduardo Bueno, who are enrolled in the WPP; and to issue a lookout bulletin order for all of the accused should they try to leave the country.

The two admitted in 1998 to participating in the surveillance, abduction, torture, and kidnapping of Olalia and Alay-ay. They came forward fearing for their lives after a couple of other participants reportedly died under mysterious circumstances.

However, Rolando Rico described the reception of De Lima as “cold.”

There were no firm commitments or timetable to respond to their requests, only that she would check on them and update them this week, said Quizon.

“Very cold ‘yung reception sa amin, pati sa kaso (The reception to us and the case was very cold),” he said. “Iche-check lang daw niya (She just said she would check it).”

De Lima even quoted President Benigno Aquino III as saying, “Buhay pa pala itong kasong ito (This case is still alive)?”

Quizon and Rolando Rico said if De Lima was serious about the case, she would have assigned a point person to focus on the proceedings.

Nakakawalang gana (It’s disheartening),” Quizon said. 

Although he acknowledged that nobody in their group pointed out De Lima’s relationship to Kapunan, “hindi nya maikakaila (She won’t be able to deny this) because it’s part of the records,” he said.

During the meeting, De Lima also kept interrupting the discussion with references to fugitive Jovito Palparan, quipping, “Si Palparan kasi (It’s because of Palparan),” even though the former general tagged in the disappearance and murder of many student, environment, human rights, and other activists during the Arroyo administration is not party to the Olalia murder case.

The surrender

Quizon said he and other lawyers on the case continue to strategize and analyze Perez’s surrender -- if it was real or a trial balloon for the rest of the accused.

Right now, he said, only Perez will be placed on trial as the court has no jurisdiction over the accused who have not yet been arrested.

“Maybe they (suspects) are just testing the waters if there is enough to prosecute,” Quizon said.

At Perez’s first hearing, lawyer Lorna Kapunan filed a motion to quash the case against the RAM officer, citing the amnesty that was granted military rebels who tried to wrest power from Aquino.

But the Supreme Court ruled with finality on March 2009 that the trial against the 13 should proceed.

Turbulent transition years

At the time of his death, “Ka Lando” Olalia was also concurrent head of the anti-imperialist nationalist alliance Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and the left political party Partido ng Bayan (PnB).

He was found dead on a grassy knoll in Antipolo at dawn of November 13, 1986, days after he was snatched coming from a union meeting. His eyes were gouged, and his mouth agape and stuffed with newspaper. He was hogtied and was wearing only his underwear. He bore multiple gunshot and stab wounds all over his body.

Alay-ay’s body, found a few meters away from Olalia’s, also bore torture marks.

Various motions and appeals have been filed in the course of the case, which has reached all the way to the Supreme Court. Different trial judges have invariably found reason not to handle the case.