By Daniel Llanto i FilAm Star Correspondent
Four former lawmakers representing progressive party-list groups in the House of Representatives could not be served arrest warrants issued by the lower court for the alleged past killing of three individuals and have apparently gone into hiding.
The arrest warrants for Liza Maza of Gabriella, former Agrarian Reform Sec. Rafael Mariano of Anak-Pawis, and Bayan-Muna’s Satur Ocampo and Teddy Casino were issued Palayan City Regional Trial Court Branch 40 Judge Evelyn Atienza-Turla for the supposed murders of farmers’ leaders Danilo Felipe, Carlito Bayudang and Jimmy Peralta in 2001 and 2004.
Justice Sec. Menardo Guevarra instructed to the National Bureau of Investigation to help the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police in locating and serving the arrest warrants.
Activist groups staged a protest action in front of PNP in Camp Crame denouncing the arrest orders for the former party-list congressmen.
They said the arrest warrants against National Anti-Poverty Commission lead convener Liza Maza and other former party-list lawmakers for murder cases in 2006 are more instances of unjust persecution.
Gabriela, where Maza serves as chairperson emerita, called the 2006 murder charges “trumped-up.”
A Gabriella statement said: “The Duterte government continues to demonize and persecute perceived opposition, including those whose record of service is untainted even as they served the government like Maza and Mariano.”
In another statement, Casiño said that he along with Maza, Ocampo and Mariano will exhaust all remedies to fight the charges.
“That this attempt to curtail my liberty and stop me from my advocacies and social involvement is happening in the shadow of a looming Duterte-Arroyo-Marcos alliance makes it even more objectionable and frightening,” he said.
Leaders of left-leaning groups have underlined the coincidence of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s rise to House speakership and the release of the arrest orders against former representatives of the Makabayan bloc.
“Kami ay nagdududa talaga doon sa timing, niluklok si Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) doon sa speakership, eh timing na timing naman na nilabas ang desisyon na ito,” ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro said during the rally staged outside the Camp Crame gates.
Castro said the case was filed 10 years ago during the term of Arroyo as president. “‘Yan naman ‘yong kanyang (Arroyo’s) style. ‘Yong kanyang mga dissenters, ‘yong mga tumututol sa kanya ay pinapatungan ng gawa-gawang kaso,” Castro added.
According to Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary-general Renato Reyes, the cases against Arroyo’s staunchest critics when she was in power appear weird and unexpected.
“Noong 2006, nag-file ng mga gawa-gawang kaso, ‘yong iba napa-dismiss na. ‘Yong ibang gawa-gawang kaso sa probinsya na-dismiss na ‘yan. Kaya lang ito, natira pa,” Reyes said.
“Nakakagulat nga kasi nga ang unang desisyon ng judge walang basehan ‘yong kasong ito. Pero ngayon nabago na, after 10 years, parang may batayan na,” he added.
Reyes claimed that while it is not yet proven if Arroyo has a hand in the revival of the case, the charges itself were steered by Arroyo. “May kamay si GMA sa pagsasampa ng kaso because it happened during her administration. ‘Yong ‘pag re-surface inaaral pa namin kung bakit gano’n ang naging desisyon ng judge,” he added.
Director Gen. Oscar Albayalde, PNP chief, said he has ordered the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group to look for the four former legislators. He urged them to surrender.
“I am also appealing to these individuals to just turn themselves in and to submit themselves to judicial processes,” Albayalde said.
The NBI is joining the manhunt because, Guevarra said, it helps in finding hard-to-locate persons in compliance with a warrant duly issued by the courts. “All warrants of arrest are addressed to all law enforcement officers, including the NBI, commanding them to arrest the person accused wherever the latter may be found,” Guevarra said.