By JONAS ALPASAN
MANILA — A Manila court has sustained the earlier ruling that junked the multiple murder charges against activists and peace consultants in relation to the infamous Hilongos mass grave, saying that the evidence presented were riddled with gaping holes.
The Hilongos mass grave refers to the remains that were allegedly found in Baybay, Leyte. The multiple murder charges, of which the filing has been led by the Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Action, have since been used to implicate activists and peace consultants.
The inter-agency body, along with its predecessor under former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, has long been assailed for filing trumped-up charges against activists.
Last year, Judge Thelma Bunyi-Medina of a Manila court granted the demurrer to evidence pleas that were separately filed by the accused, which means that they are asking the court to dismiss the case even before they present their defense.
Read: Manila court dismisses multiple murder charges vs. peace consultants, activists
Read: Hilongos, Leyte case | Recycled evidence, inconsistencies reek of political persecution
This decision by Medina is now the subject of an appeal but this was raffled to Judge Dinnah Aguila-Topacio of the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 42 after the former was asked to inhibit by government prosecutors.
“It is axiomatic that the assessment of the credibility of a witness is best left to the trial court, as the trial court had the unique opportunity to observe the witness’ deportment and demeanor on the witness stand,” the judge said.
To be considered sufficient, Aguila-Topacio said the evidence must prove both commission of the crime and the precise degree of participation of the accused. In her nine-page decision, the judge said that the evidence presented, after weighing and carefully reviewing, was found wanting.”
Among those in the voluminous records of the multiple murder charges are testimonies that the judge found to be “riddled with gaping holes.”
These included citing of incorrect names, failing to positively identify the accused in the courtroom, inconsistencies on how the alleged victims were killed, inconsistent accounts as to how the mass grave was discovered, including where the victims were buried, and the incredibility of accounts by supposed witnesses, to name a few.
Still, the court expressed hopes that justice be achieved for the victims of the purported mass grave.
“But it must be the kind of justice sanctioned by our Fundamental Law, with due regard to all the safeguards afforded to the accused. One cannot right the wrong by taking Constitutional shortcuts for the sake of having suspected felons locked up for crimes that cannot be proven beyond reasonable doubt. Such would not be justice, but blind vengeance.” (RVO)