Negros Occidental lawmaker faces trial for extrajudicial killings

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Negros Occidental lawmaker faces trial for extrajudicial killings
Former Escalante City mayor Melecio Yap Jr is charged for the murder and frustrated murder of supporters of his political rival from 2007 to 2011

MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Ombudsman has found probable cause to indict Negros Occidental First District Representative Melecio Yap Jr and 15 others for the murder and frustrated murder of supporters of his political rival from 2007 to 2011.

Yap, who was Escalante City mayor when the attacks took place, faces trial for 4 counts of murder and one count of frustrated murder, the Ombudsman said in a statement on Thursday, July 14.

Charged with Yap are Richard Patpat, Rolando Catayan, Joel Villarin, Jay Vargas, JR Buhat, Gregory Tuayon, Bernardino Patigas, Hernando Llorente, Rolando Llamata, Lorenzo Perolino, Joey Llorente, Eleazar Navas, and 3 others known only by their aliases – Renan, Bam-Bam, and Bob Soler.

The Ombudsman said its investigation showed that the 5 victims were known supporters of Yap’s former political opponent.

Sun.Star Bacolod reported in June that the victims in the murders cases are Ferjun Damalerio, Armando Lutrago, Eric Matugas and Jury Alsado Sr; and Fernando Damalerio, the victim in the frustrated murder case – all supporters of former Escalante mayor Santiago Barcelona Jr.

The New People’s Army had claimed responsibility for the attacks on Barcelona’s supporters but the Ombudsman, in its consolidated resolution, gave credence to the testimonies of witnesses who cited Yap’s close links with the group.

According to the Ombudsman’s press statement, “the witnesses disclosed that Yap supplied the CPP-NPA Command of its logistical needs and alleged that Yap exercised considerable influence over the Command.”

“The sworn statement [by witnesses] is given the presumption of credibility absent any showing that they are motivated by ill-will,” the resolution said.

“This Office is inclined to believe that that motive for these crimes were political,” said Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.

Yap served as Escalante mayor from 2007 to 2016, before he won as Negros Occidental First District representative. 

In 2011, the National Police Commission stripped Yap of his supervisory power over the local police over allegations that he was sympathetic to the NPA, and the continuing extrajudicial killings in Escalante. 

In April 2013, families of victims of extrajudicial killings in Escalante filed murder and frustrated murder complaints against the then mayor and several others before the city prosecutor’s office. –

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