SF CHRP (San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines) is a San Francisco based human rights advocacy group. Latest news and views on human rights in the Philippines.
After state witness Medardo Dumlao Baretto had recounted in court, in three hearings, his knowledge on the abduction and murder of labor leader Rolando Olalia and Leonor Alay-ay bystate security forces, his testimony this Tuesday November 27 largely dwelt on the aftermath of what they call in the military as “the Olalia operations.”
Baretto said “the group became very disorganized when (then) Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile resigned.” Baretto shared the immediate activities of the Special Operations Group under the defense department after a vehicle with plate number BBB678 came out in the news in 1986. It was the plate number of one of the vehicles the Special Operations Group had used in casing, abducting and bringing Olalia and Alay-ay to Antipolo, Rizal, where they were later found dead on Nov 13, 1986.
The RAM is widely known as the ultra-rightist group responsible for a series of bloody coup d’état in the late 1980s. Kapunan and the other accused former soldiers in the Olalia-Alay-ay case were mostly associated with RAM. For years, the accused had also cited the coup amnesty they received as justification for evading arrest and delaying the trial over the Olalia-Alay-ay double murder.
Kapunan had also allegedly ordered the murder of some members of the team (Baretto called them ‘Team 56′ in this week’s hearing). The murder was allegedly part of efforts to conceal the said soldiers’ responsibility over the Olalia murder. In fact, it was the cover-up that had prompted Baretto to leave RAM and turn state witness in 1998, after he thought he himself was to be silenced or killed.
Efforts to cover up the crime seemed to have continued, based on Baretto’s testimony. In 2009, despite his being under the Witness Protection Program, Baretto was compelled to recant his first sworn statement.
As this was being discussed in court this week, the public prosecutors from the Department of Justice suddenly cited national security and asked both sides for a few minutes of closed-door meeting. But this is going ahead of the story. The following is how it unfolded heatedly in court this week.
More than a decade since they did “the job,” Baretto told the court he applied for the Witness Protection Program in January 1998. He explained to the court that he decided to leave RAM and Col. Kapunan, “after I believe and when I found basis that even I was being planned to be killed.”
Amid repeated objections by the defense lawyers to what they call as “leading” questions of the prosecutor, Baretto tried to tell the court his bases for believing that he was up for silencing or murder.
“Events happened and because of that, I believed that I was already marked to be killed,” Baretto said in Filipino.
“When Gil Galicia was released from the custody of the crime investigators of Camp Crame, Col. Kapunan talked to me and asked ‘Di pa ba pwedeng iligpit iyan?’ (Can he not be silenced?)” Baretto recounted.