Palace urged to withdraw ‘traveling skeletons’ case

ANAKPAWIS party-list Representative Rafael Mariano welcomed Malacanang’s announcement to subject cases of political detainees under a thorough review and called for the immediate withdrawal of the controversial “case of the traveling skeletons” filed before the Regional Trial Court in Hilongos, Leyte.

“We welcome Malacanang’s announcement and GRP peace panel negotiator Alex Padilla’s statement to review cases of other political detainees. We also hope that the review and the subsequent withdrawal of cases will include the trumped-up charges in Hilongos, Leyte filed during the dark days of the Arroyo administration,” Mariano said.

The Hilongos case is a ‘multiple murder’ case filed against more than 50 leaders of progressive people’s organizations allegedly due to a ‘purge’ in the Communist Party of the Philippines in 1984. Among the respondents in the case includes Prof. Jose Ma. Sison, former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo, Bayan Muna Political Director Vicente Ladlad, Anakpawis Chairperson Rafael Baylosis, and Anakpawis Vice-Chairperson Randall Echanis. Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas leader Dario Tomada is now languishing at the Manila City Jail also in connection with the Hilongos case.

It was dubbed as ‘the case of the traveling skeletons’ after Ocampo, during his arrest in 2007, accused the military top brass of using recycled skeletons as evidence, saying that five of the 15 skeletons allegedly found in Hilongos, Leyte, as evidence of mass killings had actually been also previously dug in Barangay Monterico in Albay in 2004.

“Just like in the case of the ‘Morong 43’ where the evidence is a fruit of a poisoned tree, the Hilongos case is a fruit of the Arroyo administration’s dirty imagination and political persecution. Many of the accused are now languishing in jail due to this trumped up charge… It must be immediately withdrawn,” says Mariano.

Mariano also said that the dropping of the multiple murder charges against the accused will ‘further boost confidence’ in the upcoming peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines tentatively set on February next year.

“Some of the accused are negotiators and consultants of the NDFP in the peace process, the charges against them must be immediately dropped in accordance with previous agreements signed by the government,” Mariano said referring to the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantee (JASIG) and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) signed by the GRP and NDFP panels.

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