A Quezon City court has convicted Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) members Benito Tiamzon and his wife, Wilma, of kidnapping with serious illegal detention in relation to the 1988 kidnapping of four soldiers in Quezon province.
In a 19-page decision, Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 216 Judge Alfonso Ruiz II found the Tiamzon couple “guilty beyond reasonable doubt” and sentenced them to a jail term of 40 years.
The Tiamzons were also ordered to pay complainant, former Army Lt. Abraham Claro Casis the sum of ₱225,000 in moral, civil and exemplary damages.
The charges stemmed from the kidnapping of Casis and three soldiers – Lieutenants Clarito Santos, Oscar Singson and Rommel Salamanca – who were abducted by supposed members of the New People’s Army while on their way to Manila on June 1, 1988.
“After a careful review of the evidence presented, this court finds that the prosecution has proven beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of the accused of the crime charged,” Judge Ruiz said. Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra lauded the decision.
“I still have not read the entire decision. But it’s a victory for the prosecution, so as SOJ (secretary of justice) I am happy about the outcome of the trial,” Guevarra said.
Conspiracy In his decision, Judge Ruiz said, “This court finds no reason to disbelieve the testimony of the complainant considering that his narration of facts was straightforward, categorical and in accord with the natural course of things.”
“The kidnapping and detention of the complainant have been established by clear and convincing evidence,” the court added.
Although Casis said the Tiamzons were not the ones who abducted them, Judge Ruiz said the complainant “was able to establish the participation of the accused during the trial of the case.”
Casis, in his testimony also “confirmed that the accused Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria were top rank officials of the organization” as the couple “belong to the core group” who ran and organized meetings, and issued orders to CPP-NPA members.
“During his stay… complainant Lt. Casis saw accused… holding meetings with other members of the group.
From his observation, the[y] could tell that they belonged to the top officers of the group since they appear to be the ones tasked to make sure that the orders coming from their highest officials are carried out and implemented,” the court noted.
“Basing on the narration of facts of the complainant, the members of the organization including the accused conspired to commit the crime charged,” the decision read, “Thus, they are responsible for everything done by their confederates… As testified by the complainant, accused were part of the core group.”
While the defense pointed out that the prosecution of crime cannot even resort to invoking conspiracy as the basis for liability of the accused, Judge Ruiz said “proof of agreement does not need to rest on direct evidence, as the agreement may be inferred from the conduct of the parties indicating a common understanding among them with respect to the commission of the offense.”
“In the present case, the testimony of the complainant was able to establish conspiracy among members of the core group that kidnapped and detained him.”
After they were abducted, the four soldiers walked continuously for more than two weeks until they reached Molave Detention Center, “a place in the middle of the mountains.”
It is where they were detained for 75 days, from June 18, 1988 to August 12, 1988.
They were only released by Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal after they were brought to him in Barangay Mamala in Sariaya, Quezon. Casis said aside from them, a member of the defunct Philippine Constabulary identified as Sgt. John Jacob was also kidnapped.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) welcomed the conviction of the Tiamzon couple who remain at-large.
“The AFP will continue to hunt them down after they have violated the provisions of their temporary liberty by virtue of their being nominated as consultants in the peace negotiations with government. They refused to submit themselves to government after the peace negotiations did not prosper,” said Major General Edgard Arevalo., AFP spokesman.
“The conviction of the Tiamzons is a victory for the many victims of atrocities of the NPA particularly orders to conduct murder, arson, extortion, ambushes, bombing and the like that they orchestrated,” Arevalo added.
Police Brig. Gen. Ildebrandi Usana, PNP spokesman, called the Tiamzon conviction “a triumph of justice.” “I think that’s a triumph of justice.
It is also another success story on the efficiency of our prosecutors and investigators who secured the validity of evidence presented during trial,” Usana said. (With reports from Jeffrey Damicog and Martin A. Sadongdong)