THE Court of Appeals (CA) has dismissed the P5.4-million damage suit filed by the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) against former president and now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo over the alleged extrajudicial killings during her regime with the religious group’s pastors and members among the victims.
The CA junked the petition filed by UCCP and families of six victims of the so-called Oplan Bantay Laya during Mrs. Arroyo's term which sought moral damages over the group’s supposed damaged reputation and for the deaths of its members.
In a 13-page decision, the CA upheld the decision of the Quezon City regional trial court branch 226 last September 2016, granting Arroyo’s demurrer to evidence.
"All told, this Court finds that the evidence adduced is wholly insufficient to support the ultimate facts asserted in the complaint," read the ruling written by Associate Justice Zenaida Galapate - Laguilles.
Also, the appeals court agreed with the RTC that the petitioners lacked personal knowledge of the deaths and tortures, and failed to show the acts were committed by military personnel.
“This Court concurs with the lower court’s observation that the witnesses lacked personal knowledge with respect to the alleged deaths and tortures suffered by their respective deceased family members. Worse, there is even no showing that the dastardly acts were perpetrated by military people," the appellate court held.
"As all of these individuals admitted that they did not witness the killings, their imputation to the military of participation in or authorship of the crimes are within the realm of speculation," it ruled.
UCCP filed the damage suit over alleged extrajudicial killings of its members and the kidnapping of another priest from 2003 to 2006.
The group was joined in its complaint by Rosa Baclao (the parent of slain church leader Joel Baclao Jr.), Emma Lapuz, Evelyn Domingo and Dominga Pawican (the widows of slain pastors Edison Lapuz, Raul Domingo and Andy Pawican), Teodora Montealto (the widow of slain church leader Noel Capulong), and Berlin Guerrero (a pastor who survived illegal arrest and torture).
The church group alleged that Arroyo was liable for damages as she failed “either by commission or omission, either by manifest negligence or by culpable acts” to fulfill her duties as president and commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
Under the Oplan Bantay Laya -- the anti-communist insurgency operation of the Armed Forces during Arroyo administration -- UCCP was among the society and church organizations identified as front organizations of the Communist Party of the Philippines, and thus, targets for neutralization by the military.