“Satur should be the last person to call my mother a failure. The freedom of expression he is enjoying and the freedom given to all political prisoners under Marcos, he owed to my mother. Is that failure?”
This was Noynoy Aquino’s response to a statement Ka Satur made: “….. Today challenged presidential aspirant Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr.to take responsibility for and rectify the errors of his mother former president Corazon C. Aquino. He was referring in particular to the failed agrarian reform program of the Aquino regime and the January 22, 1987 Mendiola Massacre where 13 farmers were killed and scores wounded.
“Sen. Aquino has been citing the lives and legacies of his parents to the Filipino people as a sort of guarantee that he will be a good president. Given this, he should then admit and take stock of the failure of former Pres. Aquino to implement a genuine agrarian reform program. It has been 22 years since the Mendiola Massacre, but justice still eludes the victims and the survivors. Majority of the the country’s farmers remain landless and impoverished,” he said.
“Filipino farmers challenge Sen. Aquino to rectify this. Can he and will he take a stand for genuine agrarian reform? Up to now the struggle between the Hacienda Luisita farmers and the Cojuangco family remain unsettled, and Sen. Aquino has issued nothing but platitudes,” he said.
Ka Satur issued this statement during the culmination of the ‘Lakbayan ng Anakpawis para sa Lupa’t Katarungan sa 2010’ which began in Davao on January 12. Some 7,000 farmers participated in the historic lakbayan.
“Social injustice is a state policy with the incumbent government under Macapagal-Arroyo. More than 7 out of 10 farmers aredeprived of land. Farmers are modern-day slaves of big land owners and transnational corporations which own vast tracts of agricultural lands- turned into cash crop plantations. Can Sen. Aquino do more than his mother did and include in his campaign platfrom the promise of giving land to the landless?”
The following is a partial account of the legal battle Satur Ocampo and Bobbie Malay faced as prisoners of the Aquino government. Sen. Aquino is being ridiculous and pathetic when he says that it was his mother who restored democracy in this country (as if there really was democracy ever in the Philippines) and that former political prisoners like Satur should be grateful to the Aquino regime for their freedom.
Noynoy Aquino, as the campaign period continues, becomes more and more delusional and in his head, the role his mother played in the Philippine’s unfolding history had eclipsed even the Filipino masses. He is either truly ignorant, or he simply chooses to ignore, the reality that his mother’s government also committed countless crimes against the Filipino people.
His mother’s government denied the rights of Satur Ocampo and Bobbie Malay to gain immediate freedom using legal chicanery.
Satur and wife Bobbie returned to the public eye: the former as chief negotiator of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the latter as chief of staff of the NDFP panel in the peace talks. The NDFP engaged in peace negotiations with the then-newly installed government of Corazon C. Aquino. The initial talks produced a two-month nationwide ceasefire agreement intended to provide the proper atmosphere for the substantive negotiations aimed at ending the protracted armed conflict.
The substantive phase of the peace negotiations was stalled by disagreements on framework as well as on specific issues. In the course of the talks, the GRP panel disclosed threats by military elements against the lives of members of both panels. While the two sides were in the midst of discussing security measures, news arrived that government troops rained bullets on a rally of farmers demanding land reform in front of Malacanang. The brutality which resulted in the death of 17 peasants became known as the Mendiola Massacre. The negotiations, as could have been expected, fell apart. Satur and Bobbie returned to the underground.
On July 27, 1989, Satur and Bobbie were arrested in Makati as they were following up a new peace initiative. The NDF had earlier made a offer to the GRP for a nationwide ceasefire and to pursue new peace talks if the Aquino government agreed to eject the US military bases from the Philippines by September 1991. Aquino rejected the NDF’s offer, but prominent religious leaders and people’s organizations welcomed the initiative and offered to either host of mediate the new peace talks.
Even in military prison, Satur and Bobiite continue to seek a peaceable and just resolution to the civil war. In July 1990, a group of peace advocates led by then senator Wigberto tanada and allies from an international human rights group spoke with the couple regarding the possibility of calling for another round of talks between the NDFP and the GRP. Satur and Bobbie endorsed their initiative and made suggestions as to have these efforts could become more successful. They also declared their preparedness to help in whatever capacity, especially once freed, towards gaining a negotiated political settlement of the armed conflict in the country.
The ball went rolling. There were a few positive signs as multisectoral groups expressed support and initiated a series of discussions with a cabinet-level group handpicked by then Pres. Aquino. This group, the Multisectoral Peace Advocates, the People’s Caucus and the National Peace Conference drew separate proposals for a peace agenda.
For its part, the NDFP welcomed the initiatives. It sent feedback on the same and forwarded them to the Aquino government with declarations that it willing to discuss and put together with a GRP an agreement on mutual respect for human rights and international humanitarian law aheadof political, economic, social and military issues.
Burgeoning hopes, however, immediately crumbled when the AFP put its foot down against the talks. The Aquino government followed the lead of the military and stated that before any peace talks can begin, the revolutionary forces must first lay down their arms.
Right to bail denied
Immediately after they were arrested, the military presented Satur and Bobbie to the national and international media as the NDFP’s ‘top leaders.’ In contradiction to their own labelling, however, the military refused to charge either one with rebellion of subversion. This was to deny the couple the right to post bail.
The military and civilian state prosecutors filed four separate common criminal charges for which they recommended no bail for the accused couple. The charges were: (1) illegal possession of firearms in furtherance of rebellion or subversion; (2) two separate but indentical charges of kidnapping with serious illegal detention; and (3) a charge of murder. In all four charges, the prosecution alleged that Satur and Bobbie committed these crimes as leaders of the revolutionary Left.
It was clear that the Aquino government was twisting its own laws like a pretzel. under a judicial doctrine (the Hernandez Doctrine) issued by the Philippine Supreme Court in 1965 and reaffirmed on June 5, 1990, common crimes allegedly committed in furtherance of rebellion are deemed absorbed in the single crime of rebellion and cannot be prosecuted or punished separately. The SC also laid down the ruling that persons charged with rebellion should be granted bail as a matter of right.
The Aquino government, however, on the push of military, ignored the doctrine and proceeded to charge suspected political dissenters such as Satur with nonbailable crimes instead of rebellion.
From the very beginning, Satur and Bobbie’s lawyers questioned the charges and their bases. They moved for the reinvestigation of the cases in view of questionable sufficiency of evidence, for consolidation of the charges and for changing them into a single case of rebellion.
The prosecution, almost completely handled by the military prosecutor who had been authorized by the Department of Justice to assist the state prosecutors in “national security-related cases,” opposed every motion of the defense and almost always this opposition was sustained by the courts.
Satur and Bobbie had no choice but to go through the trails, even as Satur publicly expressed strong reservations that he would receive justice in the process.
TO BE CONTINUED.