By Edu Punay (The Philippine Star)
MANILA, Philippines — 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 Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo over alleged extrajudicial killings during her presidency.
In a 13-page decision promulgated on Dec. 17, the appellate court’s Special 14th Division denied the petition filed by the UCCP, through its general secretary Bishop Reuel Norman Marigza, and the families of six victims of the so-called Oplan Bantay Laya during Arroyo’s term as president.
The complainants sought compensation for the group’s besmirched reputation and for the deaths of UCCP members and their relatives.
The CA affirmed the decision of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 226 in September 2016, which granted Arroyo’s demurrer to evidence and dismissed the civil complaint for damages.
“This court finds that the evidence adduced is insufficient to support the facts asserted in the complaint,” read the decision penned by Associate Justice Zenaida Galapate-Laguilles.
Associate Justices Mario Lopez and Ronaldo Roberto Martin concurred with the ruling.
The CA magistrates agreed with the RTC’s finding that the complainants lacked personal knowledge of the deaths and tortures, and failed to show the acts were committed by military personnel.
The appellate court held that evidence only included death certificates and the military’s tagging of the UCCP as an alleged ally of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
The CA pointed out that UCCP was not entitled to damages since it is a corporation and not a person.
It also cited the failure of the group to show evidence and establish the injury it supposedly sustained from its damaged reputation.
The UCCP filed the damage suit over the alleged killing of five of its members and the kidnapping of a priest from 2003 to 2006.
The group was joined in its complaint by Rosa Baclao, parent of slain church leader Joel Baclao Jr.; Emma Lapuz, Evelyn Domingo and Dominga Pawican, widows of pastors Edison Lapuz, Raul Domingo and Andy Pawican; Teodora Montealto, widow of church leader Noel Capulong, and Berlin Guerrero, who survived illegal arrest and torture.
The group alleged that Arroyo was liable for damages as she failed “either by commission or omission, manifest negligence or by culpable acts” to fulfill her duties as then commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces.