Citing loss of confidence on his integrity and impartiality to hear and decide the instant case pending before his Court, Judge Tomas Leynes of the Regional Trial Court Branch 40 in Calapan, Oriental Mindoro inhibited himself from hearing the multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder case filed by the Provincial Prosecutor and the Philippine National Police against 72 individuals, a number of whom are known leaders and personalities of people’s organizations in the Calabarzon Region. In another development, churches, human rights advocates and people’s organizations in Cavite gathered together on December 11 at the Imus Cathedral to express concern over the alarming situation of human rights in the province.

‘Loss of confidence’

The 27 November 2008 order to inhibit by Judge Tomas Leynes came at the heels of several letters of concern from various movements and organizations and queries of concern from personalities of the Roman Catholic Church regarding the procedures and bases for the filing of charges and issuance of warrants of arrest against the 72 accused.

In the order, Judge Leynes made particular mention of Most Reverend Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle’s inquiry about the judicial procedures that led to the issuance of the warrants of arrest against the accused. According to Reverend Father Jose Dizon, Executive Director of the Workers Assistance Center, Bishop Tagle committed the support of the Diocese of Imus for the accused leaders and activists of Cavite and has tasked his priests to assist in the needs of victims and their families. A number of the priests of the Diocese have known most of these Cavite leaders for years.

According to Pastor Migfried Taruc, Board Member of the Cavite Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace (CEMJP), the continued outpouring of letters of concern is an urgent reaction by advocates of human rights and concerned organizations from the international community and the Philippines on the series of arrests and filing of charges against activists in Southern Tagalog.

Father Dizon, added that WAC has been informed by different organizations from the United States, Canada, Germany, France and The Netherlands of their concern and have started parallel campaigns of support for Asuncion and his co-accused.


Emmanuel Asuncion, one of those charged and ordered arrested, appreciated this development as encouraging yet inadequate. Speaking in Tagalog, Asuncion said that, “Judge Leynes could have already recognized certain irregularities in the whole legal process that led to the filing of charges against me and the other leaders,” quickly adding, “but if he would just stand on the side of righteousness and fair justice, he should have dismissed the case outright instead of just inhibiting himself from it because there could be never be any evidence that will prove our involvement in the incident surrounding that case.” Asuncion is a known labor and community leader in Cavite, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Workers Assistance Center and a council member and the spokesperson of the Solidarity of Cavite Workers (SCW).

In a separate statement, Cavite leaders included in the Oriental Mindoro case appealed for continued support for the campaign to dismiss the case against them. Beside Asuncion, those from Cavite include Renato Alvarez and Rogelio Galit, Chairman and Spokesperson, respectively, of the Kalipunan ng mga Magsasaka sa Kabite (Kamagsasaka-Ka); Rommel Valdez, Chairman of Samahan ng mga Magsasaka sa Intsikan; Sheryl Villegas, Secretary General of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Cavite; Karen Ortiz, Deputy Secretary General of the Cavite Ecumenical Movement for Justice & Peace; and, Amelita Sto. Tomas, Provincial Coordinator of Gabriela Women’s Party. Galit, also the Anakpawis Provincial Coordinator, is now detained at the Oriental Mindoro Provincial Jail in Calapan City after his arrest on November 3 at his residence in Silang, Cavite.

Statement of Concern

According to Father Dizon, the alarming situation of human rights in Cavite has led to the banding together of the different churches, human rights advocates and people’s organizations into the Cavite Commemorative Committee for Human Rights.

On December 11, the Commemorative Committee organized a day-long series of activities to express their concern over this urgent issue even as the world commemorates the 60th year of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR).

The December 11 event started with the Human Rights Forum at the Bishop’s House of the Diocese of Imus, where victims and families of victims of human rights violations discussed and provided testimonials on the human rights situation. Mrs. Editha Burgos, mother of desaparecido Jonas Burgos; former political detainees Axel Pinpin of the Tagaytay 5 and UCCP Pastor Berlin Guerrero; and Tessie Alvarez, wife of accused peasant leader Renato Alvarez gave the testimonials to the horrors of human rights violations in the Philippines. Sr. Marinela Narvaez SSS, one of the Convenors of the Commemorative Committee, delivered the church response. Teary-eyed, she likened the speakers to theologians and called for more of the same kind of activities where people should be informed and called to action regarding the disturbing violations against human rights.

At 1:00 P.M., the Forum was followed by an ecumenical service at the Imus Cathedral concelebrated by Most Reverend Bishop Tagle of the Roman Catholic Church Imus Diocese, Bishop Gabriel Garol of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines Southern Luzon Jurisdiction, Bishop Pedro Ojascastro of the Philippine Independent Church Diocese of Cavite, and Rev. Dr. Larry Baquiran of the United Methodist Church in Imus. Speaking during the liturgy, Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Leila de Lima highlighted the need to uphold the UDHR. She admitted that the CHR still has a long line of work to do taking particular note that not any one involved in extra judicial killings and enforced disappearances have ever been convicted by a court of law in the Philippines.

At around 3:00 in the afternoon, the participants made the “Walk for Human Rights” to the Cavite Police Headquarters at Camp Pantaleon Garcia also in Imus for a dialogue with police authorities. Police intelligence chief Col. Ludan received UCCP Bishop Garol, Rev. Father Dizon, Rev. Fr. Hector Arellano, UCCP Pastors Berlin and Migfred, Fr. Ramil Aguilar of the PIC, Mrs. Burgos, and Mrs. Alvarez.

The day was capped with the gathering of human rights victims, relatives and supporters in an early Christmas celebration to establish closer relationships and stronger unification and gather strength from each other amidst the very trying and difficult times in their lives. #

Reference Persons:

Tel No (046) 8840076

Dec 11 Event Coordinator
Mobile No. +63919-7276566