Where the truth lies

Dear Mr. Geniuval Cagas:

I received your letter from Tinangis Jail and Penal Farm about a month ago.  I know how it must feel to wait for some sign that the world out there still cares whether you exist.  It has taken me all this time to reply because I have only vague memories of the so-called “Libmanan Massacre” which happened 4 years ago, and in which you figure as the principal accused.

The other night, I finally had the chance to read the thick packet of letters and legal documents  that accompanied your letter.  I admire your persistence in proving your innocence, and in reaching out to various individuals who may be able to do something about the plight of accused persons denied bail while awaiting trial.  I note that you have previously written to Cardinal Sin, Senators Miriam DefensorSantiago, and Raul Roco, and Noli de Castro and Teddy Boy Locsin.

Not being a bishop or senator, I cannot give you comfort or promise you legislation.  I can only read your story, and tell others about it.  But even this, I must try to do without violating the rule on sub judice, which, I understand, prevents someone like me from commenting on the merits of a case under trial.

I am sorry to learn that your petition for bail was denied by the lower court, the Court of Appeals and, more recently, by the Supreme Court. You and your co-accused, driver-delivery man Wilson Butin, and houseboy Julio Astillero, have spent exactly 4 years in jail now – for a crime that still has to be proven.  I can understand why you are skeptical about the meaning of the Constitutional presumption of innocence for all accused persons awaiting trial.

The murder of six persons, all women, who could offer no effective resistance, is a heinous crime – and it is easy to see why the courts in this particular case  should deny bail to the accused.  But I think what you and your lawyer, Atty. J. Antonio Carpio Sr., were saying is that your graduation from mere suspect to accused was made on very flimsy evidence.  The lower court judge did in fact admit that the existing evidence against you is circumstantial in nature, but not being a lawyer, I do not know if circumstantial evidence is not sufficient to establish a prima facie case.

I share your concern that the adverse ruling on your petition for bail not only penalizes you for something that is yet to be proven, but that it may also influence the appreciation of the evidence in the ongoing trial itself.

My family and I were discussing your case the other night on the basis of a narrative culled from your petitions and court orders.  We applied the test of the reasonable person, and came up with some points that are likely to be raised by a reasonable public.

On June 23, 1992, the police of Libmanan, Camarines Sur found the bloodied bodies of six women in the house of one of the victims, Dra. Dolores Arevalo.  Their hands were bound and their heads smashed with an instrument, which police suspect was an 8-kilo stalactite piece found in a basin in the house.  There were no witnesses to the actual murder.

Subsequent investigation yielded 3 findings: 1. A guest in the house next door, Pobleo Rili, claims seeing 4 men enter the Arevalo residence the evening before.  He later pointed to you and your 2 helpmates then detained in the Libmanan jail to be the same ones he saw.  2.  A Libmanan policeman, Bellardo Azurias,  claims seeing 4 men drive away from the Arevalo residence in a white Toyota sedan and later writing the plate number in his notebook.  The car was traced to you.  3. Atty. Jose Claro, private counsel for the victims’ families, remembers sending a letter to you warning you, on behalf of Dra. Arevalo, about a derogatory telegram  that you supposedly sent to the husband of Dra. Arevalo.

Up to now, you claim that you do not know, have never met and have never had any dealings with Dra. Dolores Arevalo, one of the murder victims.

I am sorry I cannot discuss here our own view of the evidence.  But my commonsense children said that you, Mr. Cagas, should do only 2 things.  First, challenge or cast doubt on the accounts of Rili, the policeman Azurias, and the private counsel Atty. Claro.  Second, state where you were and who saw you at the time the multiple murders were happening.  Forgive me if this view is simplistic, but anyone with an uncluttered mind would not ask for more than this.

I do not know if you or Attorney Carpio are fond of Nietzsche, the German philosopher who loves to debunk people’s high notions of truth.  But you might take comfort in what he said about truth-telling and lying:  “Why do men usually tell the truth in daily life?  Certainly not because a god has forbidden lying.  Rather, it is because, first, it is more convenient: for lies demand imagination, dissembling, and memory (which is why Swift says that the man who tells a lie seldom perceives the heavy burden he is assuming: namely, he must invent twenty other lies to make the good the first).”

If the people who have testified against you are, as you say, lying – then, following Nietzsche, the truth is somewhere beneath the layers of other lies they had had to invent to make good their first lie.  You are very lucky to have the services of a lawyer of great sensitivity and unassailable integrity like J. Antonio Carpio Sr. to guide you through this thicket of metaphors.    I do not know where the truth lies in this case, but from now on I shall watch the progress of your trial with more than passing interest.


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