Habeas Corpus petition seeks release of ‘Kumander Bilog’
MANILA, Philippines — A petition has been filed asking the Supreme Court to grant the privilege of a writ of habeas corpus and order the immediate release of former Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) leader Rodolfo Salas, also known as “Kumander Bilog.”
Salas’ son, Jody, through the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) also asked the Supreme Court to issue a temporary restraining order against the Manila City Regional Trial Court Branch 32 from proceeding with Salas’ arraignment for multiple counts of murder.
He was arrested early morning of Feb. 18 in Angeles City, Pampanga through an arrest warrant for 29 counts of murder in connection with the Inopacan massacre in Leyte which were allegedly committed by the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the CPP in the 1980s.
Judge Thelma Bunyi-Medina, of Regional Trial Court Branch 32 in Manila, issued the arrest warrant on Aug. 28, 2018, which stemmed from two criminal cases.
Currently, Salas is detained at the Manila City Jail.
In the petition for habeas corpus, FLAG said Salas is being illegally detained “in violation of 1. his right to due process as a protection against hasty, malicious, and oppressive prosecutions, and 2. his right against being put twice in jeopardy of punishment for the same offense.”
“Only the Court’s issuance of the Writ of Habeas Corpus and the grant of the Privilege of the Writ can remedy these continuing violations of Rodolfo’s Constitutional rights,” it added.
Habeas Corpus means “that you have the body” while “writ” is a court order. The Writ of Habeas Corpus requires an official to produce before the court detained person and justify why he needs to be restrained. Failure to justify the legality of the detention would mean the detained person’s freedom.
In this case, FLAG said Salas’ right to due process has been violated when the State prosecutors filed the murder charges without giving him the right to contest the allegations.
“At no point in the proceeding did Rodolfo receive any subpoena from the public prosecutor requiring him to answer. The first time he found out about it was in the news wherein he heard that there was a case filed against him in Leyte,” said FLAG adding that Salas only learned of the criminal case in the news.
FLAG added that Salas is protected by the Hernandez-Enrile political offense doctrine, which according to the Supreme Court means “everything done” including “destruction of life and property” is considered only as one offense –rebellion.
“The Hernandez-Enrile doctrine changed the legal landscape in favor of persons who have been accused or convicted of not only rebellion but also those who will be accused of all common crimes performed in furtherance thereof,” FLAG said quoting a Supreme Court ruling.
Salas has been convicted of rebellion in 1991. He was sentenced to suffer six years and one day of imprisonment which he has already served.
FLAG pointed out that by prosecuting him again, his right against double jeopardy–being charged with the same offense twice–has been violated.
“By placing Rodolfo in second jeopardy for murder when the State has actively negotiated for and entered into a plea-bargaining agreement that was used as the basis to secure Rodolfo’s conviction for Rebellion in 1991 – a crime which absorbs and includes murder – the State has not only violated Rodolfo’s right against double jeopardy but also to due process of law,” FLAG said in the petition.
FLAG said after Salas completed serving his prison sentence, he “worked on rebuilding his life with his family.” However, the case has placed him in the same position as he was more than three decades ago.
Edited by JPV
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