Court convicts Tiamzon couple for 1988 Quezon kidnapping
This undated file photo shows Benito and Wilma Tiamzon being brought to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group at the Philippine National Police headquarters in Camp Crame.
The STAR/Boy Santos, File

Court convicts Tiamzon couple for 1988 Quezon kidnapping

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - November 27, 2020 - 1:03pm

MANILA, Philippines — A Quezon City court on Friday convicted National Democratic Front peace consultants Benito and Wilma Tiamzon for the kidnapping and serious illegal detention of military officers in 1988.

The Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 216 sentenced the Tiamzon couple to reclusion perpetua or up to 40 years of imprisonment. The Tiamzon couple are also ordered to pay P75,000 as moral damages, P75,000 as civil indemnity and P75,000 as exemplary damages to complainant Lt. Claro Casis.

The case stemmed from the kidnapping of Army Lts. Clarito Santos, Oscar Singson, Rommel Salamanca, and Abraham Claro Casis of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and of Sgt. John Jacob of the Philippine Narcotics Command in Quezon province on June 1, 1988.

Based on the Information or charge sheet filed on June 26, 1990, those kidnapped were kept under restraint for 75 days in Mauban, Quezon.

"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," the ruling penned by Presiding Judge Alfonso Ruiz II read.

Re-arrest order vs Tiamzons

The Tiamzon couple were freed in 2016 after the Manila court allowed them to post bail to participate in peace talks between communist rebels and the government but President Rodrigo Duterte scrapped formal and back-channel negotiations in 2017.

The court in 2018 ordered the re-arrest of the Tiamzons and their co-accused Adelberto Silva following the termination of peace talks.

The Tiamzons have failed to appear since the Manila court ordered their re-arrest and their right to present evidence in the kidnapping case has since been waived. The case was submitted for resolution based only on prosecution evidence.

Casis testimony, no defense from Tiamzons

The prosecution presented Casis, who told the court that they were heading to Manila when they were flagged down by “several armed men who identified themselves as members of the [New People’s Army]” along the boundary of Tiaong and Candelaria towns.

He said they were detained from June 18, 1988 to August 12, 1988, and were only allowed to go out to attend to personal necessities and once during interrogation.

“On August 12, they left the Molave Detention Center and they were brought to Barangay Mamala, Sariaya, Quezon were they were eventually formally released by Gregorio Rosales also known as ‘Ka Roger,’” the court document read.

Casis said that during their detention, he saw the Tiamzon couple holding meetings with other members of the group. “From his observation, the [sic] 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 ruling read.

Court ruling

The court said that it found no reason not to believe Casis’ testimony. “The truth of his testimony conforms to common knowledge, observation and experience of mankind if taken under the facts surrounding the case. Accordingly, his testimony deserves full faith and credit,” it said.

The court also noted that the defense—lawyers of the Tiamzons—claimed that the identification of the accused “supposedly proceeded from an out-of-court identification” or through the pictures shown to him in military after his release, and on “so-called Order of Battle and on newspapers.”

But the court said the argument was not convincing. It added that the complainant was detained behind wooden bars and confirmed he could clearly see from inside his cell. It added that jurisprudence holds that the “natural reaction of victims of criminal violence is to strive to see the appearance of their assailants.”

It also ruled that Casis was able to establish the Tiamzon’s participation and conspiracy among the group that kidnapped and detained him. “It would appear from the narration of facts of the complainant that the present crime was perpetuated not by a single person but by an organization,” the decision read.

“Basing on the narration of facts of the complainant, the members of the organization including the accused conspired to commit the crime charge. Thys, they are responsible for everything done by their confederates, in view of the conspiracy, and considering that the accused appear to be the ones who are running the organization,” the ruling further read.

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