Manila, Jan. 29, 2003 (Star) -- Police filed murder and attempted murder charges yesterday against Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Ma. "Joma" Sison and seven other communist guerrilla leaders based in Northern Luzon.

Sison, who lives in exile in the Netherlands, and his co-accused were charged with two counts of murder for the killing of Cagayan Rep. Rodolfo Aguinaldo and his bodyguard Joey Garo on June 12, 2001. Another victim, Amelia Soriano, was wounded in the incident.

The NPA, the communist movement’s armed wing, had claimed responsibility for the murders of Aguinaldo and Garo in a statement issued a day after the killings and in the July 4, 2001 issue of the party’s official publication, Ang Bayan, according to documents submitted by police.

In indicting Sison, the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) also used the testimony of five former comrades of the exiled CPP leader who revealed that all party directives came from Sison, reportedly the "most powerful" in the revolutionary movement.

According to the police, the Fortunato Camus command of the NPA, which carried out the Aguinaldo assassination, was "under the direct supervision and control of the CPP-Cagayan Valley Regional Committee, a CPP party organ which acts on direct orders from the Central Committee headed by Sison, aka Armando Liwanag."

Sison, however, denied any involvement in the killing, claiming he has no direct control over communist guerrillas operating in the Philippines.

The CIDG charge sheet submitted to the Department of Justice identified Sison’s co-accused as Victor Servidores, Evangelina Rapanut, Wilfredo Valencia, Victorio Tesorio, Manuel Columbano, Santiago Dolarte and Randy Malayao.

Chief Prosecutor Jovencito Zuno said he will assign the case against Sison and his co-accused to State Prosecutors Melvin Abad and Ruben Zacarias, who investigated the case and filed charges against the alleged triggerman, Felix Robregado and his colleagues, Gerard Mendoza and Iner Bulusan, in December 2001.

The DOJ ruling on the charges stated that "the killing was well-planned and carried out with precision. The shooting was also well-conceived. It is clear that Robregado et al conspired in their criminal design to kill the victims."

Abad disclosed that the three were indicted at the Tuguegarao regional trial court but the case has not progressed since a review of the DOJ ruling was sought.

He said that the most logical thing to do now is determine Sison’s liability, and if need be, file an amended information in the court and have Sison included in the charges.

Abad and Zacarias said there was sufficient evidence to hold the three (Robregado and the others) criminally liable based on the testimonies of 13 prosecution witnesses, including the survivor who positively identified Robregado and his two companions.

Eyewitness Francisco Rumagnera, a boarder beside Aguinaldo’s unit, revealed that he saw a man, referring to Robregado, "sporting a flat top haircut draw a pistol tucked in his waist and started shooting the congressman."

He also testified he heard around nine successive gunshots, five of them apparently coming from Robregado’s gun. He added the assailant only arrived in their rented unit the day before the killing on June 11, 2001 along with two of his friends.

Landlady Esmeña Gonzales, for her part, testified that Mendoza and Bulusan actually rented the room for P2,000 as early as May 2001. However, the group returned only on June 11.

Housemaids Delmar Sambo and Elma Domingo testified that they noticed the three suspects at the alley near Aguinaldo’s apartment from late afternoon and stayed until 7 p.m. that fateful night, "as if waiting for somebody."

"They patiently waited for the arrival of Aguinaldo with the use of communication gadgets (cellphones) and thereafter executed the killing with precision," the 14-page DOJ resolution read.

Mendoza and Bulusan presented no evidence to defend themselves during the investigation while Robregado presented 16 witnesses. He said he was watching television with his wife at their home in General Mariano Alvarez, Cavite when the crime took place.

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