“Mass graves were the great inventions of the military during the tutelage of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG). The said formation was famed for masterminding the filing of trumped-up charges against activists and critics. The weaponization of the law and judicial harassment against said individuals and organizations, which was based on ludicrous and stupendous grounds, grew so rampant that even then United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions called for its immediate abolition. IALAG’s scion, the Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Action (IACLA), takes center stage yet again, peddling the same lies and sharpening old tactics used against peace consultants,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.
Palabay explained that the “discovery” of the Inopacan mass grave in 2006 was an offshoot of the Baybay, Leyte mass grave, which was blamed on individuals and groups but was dismissed in 2005 for lack of evidence.
“They did not get the results they wanted from the so-called Baybay mass grave found in 2000, so they started another intrigue – the Inopacan mass grave. The same prosecutor in the Baybay mass grave case was the same trial prosecutor in the Inopacan mass grave case. A quick look into the details of the two cases show that three names were included in both the Baybay case and the Inopacan case – that of Gregorio Eras, Concepcion Aragon, and Juanito Aviola. The three were now ridiculously alleged to have been killed and buried twice in different locations, a stupendous story now dubbed as the case of the travelling skeletons,” she recalled, adding that according to navigation software applications, the distance between Baybay and Inopacan, Leyte is roughly 24 kms.
The Karapatan official also added that further details add to the case’s lack of integrity. “There was no proper inventory of the evidence, no DNA testing was done to ascertain the bones indeed belonged to individuals named in the case, the military had initial custody of the items, and the alleged clothes recovered were suspiciously washed, soaked, and dried before it was kept for evidence. A tampered evidence, perjured and recycled testimonies, and travelling bones are among the basis with which we consider this entire charade preposterous. The military and police, now backed by IACLA, have a new-found vigor in pursuing the case to politically persecute the respondents,” Palabay noted.
Palabay also interjected that Jose Maria Sison was under maximum detention during the time of the alleged incident. “A few others have already been forcibly disappeared, including Prudencio Calubid and Leo Velasco, both NDFP consultants who were abducted and remain missing since 2006 and 2007, respectively. Another consultant, Eduardo Sarmiento, was falsely convicted in 2013 for illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Many of the fabricated cases against him were dismissed. He is currently detained at the National Bilibid Prison (NBP),” she added.
“The exploitation of this case for political persecution has been clear from the very start. Amid the reprisal and retaliatory sedition and perjury charges against different groups, the stories of mass graves are now making a comeback. With the revamp and beefing up of repressive policies that target critics and dissenters, such as the implementation of Executive Order No. 70 and the formation of IACLA, the Duterte regime and its entire machinery are on an obsessive streak to silence individuals and criminalize dissent,” the Karapatan official said.
“The issuance of a warrant of arrest for 38 individuals accused in this discredited Inopacan mass grave case will only up the ante in the government’s vindictive crusade against progressive leaders and organizations, and will worsen the acts of reprisal against critics, activists, and the whole spectrum of those perceived as ‘enemies of the State.’ We thus call for the dismissal of the case, the abolition of IACLA, and an end to all repressive policies used to justify attacks and reprisals against Filipinos,” Palabay concluded.