[Statement] Humanrights group assails judge for soldier’s acquittal in couple’s slay in TagumCity -TFDP

Humanrights group assails judge for soldier’s acquittal in couple’s slay in TagumCity

The Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) assailed the judge for the military’s acquittal over the slaying of the couple Bacar and Carmen Japalali during a military operation headed by Sgt. Serafin Jerry Napoles last September 8, 2004 in Barangay Bincungan, Tagum City.

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In a nine (9) page decision, on October 29, 2013, after six (6) years of litigation Acting Presiding Judge Ma. Susana T. Baua manifested her arguments based on the accounts and testimonies of the accused military and negated the documentary evidences which also corroborated the testimonies of the prosecution’s witnesses.

This case stemmed when elements of Army’s 404th Infantry Battalion conducted an operation in Sitio Talaba, Barangay Bincungan, Tagum City, Davao del Norte, on September 4 in 2004 in response to a reported presence of allegedly heavily armed men in the area. The operation resulted in the death of the spouses. Both succumbed to multiple gunshot wounds at the different parts of their bodies. Bacar died on the spot while his wife who was able to shout for help was also gunned down by the military. She was rushed to the hospital but later died due to severe gunshot wounds and massive blood loss.

The court quoted the testimony of Dr. Arnel Florendo, Medical Officer V of Tagum City, Davao del Norte Health Office, who examined Bacar’s body while still in the house. It was stated that the “victim died of massive blood loss due to gunshot wounds”. He found wounds on the right arm of the deceased, at chest level as well as in the lower back of the body, above the hips. The left leg was fractured, broken and twisted. All in all there were five wounds. He did not retrieve any slug from the body of the victim. This testimony was supported by the Certificate of Death previously signed by Dr. Arnel Florendo on September 9, 2004.

The qualitative examination conducted by the SOCO on the pair of paraffin cast taken from both hands of the victim yielded a negative result to the test for gunpowder nitrates. The court also cited the testimony of Dr. Bernardo Adolfo, Jr., Head of the Department of Surgery of the Mission Hospital, who attended to Carmen Japalali when she was brought to the said hospital at 6:00 a.m. of September 8, 2004. Carmen was almost dead when admitted and actually expired after approximately one hour.

Carmen died of massive loss of blood due to gunshot wounds. She had multiple injuries and fracture on her back. Her feet also had fractures. This testimony was also supported by the Certificate of Death previously signed by Dr. Adolfo on September 10, 2004.

These evidences clearly shows how the victims were killed, but the court did not give weight to the evidences at hand but rather argued that “Sgt. Napoles and most of his men seem to be battle-hardened veterans. Being such, they could not be expected to fire their guns on the mere shout of Sabellano (one of the soldiers) that he saw a gun; there is probability that indeed, they were fired at before they opened fire themselves”.

The reasoning and argument of the court totally disregards human rights. Right to life is inviolable and even in extreme emergencies cannot be derogated. Why does it seem that it is being justified in this case?

In the case of Carmen, it was clearly presented and stated by the prosecution witnesses that while
she was shouting for help, she was shot by the military at the back. Still, the court ignored the testimony of the witnesses which was supported by documentary evidence. No one was held liable.

This case totally demonstrates how the court which is tasked to impartially dispense justice deprived victims of human rights violations in obtaining justice. This case, like that of the Capion massacre in Davao del Sur which was dismissed by the Prosecution’s office, is clearly an example of how the culture of impunity exists in the country. The case at hand clearly identified and established the perpetrators of the crime and yet
justice remained elusive.

Are we to believe that the judiciary is condoning injustice? Or was the judge among those who are afraid to implement the law because the accused were military personnel? The acquittal of the military in this case does not show otherwise.

Ms. Rita M. Melecio
Deputy Executive Director
Task Force Detainees of the Philippines
# 45 St. Mary St., Cubao, Quezon City
(02) 995-0246/ (02) 437-8054

November 14, 2013

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