NTF-ELCAC official dismayed by NPA terrorists’ acquittal in the Inopacan massacre

Despite the acquittal of 15 of 40 communist leaders and members, Secretary Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., vice-chairperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) said on Sunday that the Inopacan massacre victims’ fate remains in the hands of Jose Maria Sison and his co-defendants.

The decision of the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) to acquit 15 Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army – National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) leaders for their role in the Inopacan massacre in Leyte in 1985 disappointed Esperon, who is also the National Security Adviser.

“We are deeply saddened and dismayed with the news that the Manila RTC Branch 32, under Presiding Judge Thelma Bunyi-Medina, has granted the demurrers to evidence resulting in the acquittal of known communists, namely: former Bayan Muna representative Satur Ocampo; National Democratic Front consultants Vicente Ladlad, Rafael Baylosis and Adelberto Silva, among others, two for the perpetration of at least 15 summary executions in the killing fields by the NPA in Sapang Dako, Inopacan, Leyte in the 1980s,” said Esperon Jr.

The murder cases, he added, were filed to bring justice to the 67 people whose skeletal remains were discovered in the aforementioned Leyte village on August 28, 2006.

Following the discovery of the mass grave, Esperon, who was then the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, filed 15 counts of murder against CPP founding chair Jose Maria Sison and 37 others at the Manila Regional Trial Court.

Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, Ocampo, Ladlad, Randal Echaniz, Baylosis, and Exusperado Lloren, among others, were also sued.

The victims, all NPA rebels, were executed without trial for allegedly cooperating with the government based on the CPP’s orders.

“The clear intention behind the Inopacan massacre case is to stand, speak, and obtain justice for the dead — the victims and their families. With the purest intentions, we fought for what is right and the truth. We hoped that light will shine and pass through even in the eye of the needle,” Esperon said.

According to him, the acquittal does not rule out the possibility that the crimes were committed.

The Supreme Court (SC) ruled that granting a demurrer to evidence in a criminal prosecution is equivalent to an acquittal.

“With the quantum of evidence of proof beyond reasonable doubt required by our criminal judicial system, we still emphasize that a ruling in favor of the accused does not equate to innocence nor the finding that the crime did not happen. The philosophy is based on Blackstone’s formulation that it is better to acquit ten guilty men, than to convict an innocent man. To reiterate, the decision is based on insufficiency of evidence and not that the crime did not happen at all,” Esperon said.

He went on to say that there are two types of acquittals recognized by current law and jurisprudence.

“First is an acquittal on the ground that the accused is not the author of the act or omission complained of. The second instance is an acquittal based on reasonable doubt on the guilt of the accused,” he said, adding that acquittal on this case lies on the second kind, grounded on the alleged insufficiency of prosecution’s evidence.

“Again, it does not mean that the 15 murder cases were not committed and that the accused were not responsible for the gruesome crimes,” he said. This simply means that the quantum of evidence of proof beyond reasonable doubt was not met in eyes of the presiding judge.”

“Still, the technical victory of the communists, in this case, does not obliterate in the eyes of history and of the people their brutal killing fields and summary executions without due process — the emblem of their egregious and blatant disrespect of human rights and sanctity to life which they purport to protect,” he added.

He stated that the NTF-ELCAC is unfazed by this brief setback, adding that numerous cases and warrants for communists and their accomplices who sow terrorism and injustice are still pending.

He went on to say that the SC’s endorsement of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020’s constitutionality will substantially aid in the prosecution of malevolent evildoers and bring them to justice’s doorstep.

“With your help and cooperation, the NTF-ELCAC remains steadfast in its quest to vanquish communist terrorism and will hunt down and prosecute those who are liable to the fullest extent of the law,” Esperon said.

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