‘Batasan Four’ arrest near — PNP

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The Philippine National Police (PNP) yesterday said it is aware of the locations of the four former lawmakers in hiding after a provincial court issued warrants for their arrest for alleged murder charges.

The four members of the party-list Bayan Muna—Satur Ocampo, Liza Maza, Teddy Casiño and Rafael Mariano ­— ­have gone in hiding after a Nueva Ecija court found probable cause of their alleged involvement in the murder of two supporters of their rival party-list Akbayan in 2003 and 2004.

Also charged with the four are Eugenia Magpantay, Vicente Cayetano, Emerterio Antalan, Delfin Pimentel and 10 others yet to be identified by their names.

The case was elevated by the four accused before the Supreme Court where they are questioning the decision of the Nueva Ecija Regional Trial Court.

Maza, the National Anti-Poverty Commission’s lead convenor, denied she and her group are in hiding. She said she is only taking steps to ensure her safety and security, especially after cash bounties were offered for their heads by an anti-crime group.

Ocampo, Casiño and Mariano have yet to issue statements since the arrest warrants were made public.

The PNP, through spokesman Senior Superintendent Benigno Durana, however, s aid possible arrest of the suspects may happen soon.

The PNP said it has information about the locations of the former lawmakers and that it is ready to serve their warrants anytime.

The group was dubbed as the “Batasan Four,” in reference to their roles as lawmakers when the charges were first brought up against them. They were protected by their House colleagues when the first order for their arrest came out in 2006.

Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas, coming to the aid of her progessive colleagues, called the murder charges against the four as “trumped up.”

The respondents questioned the actions of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) before the SC, which reportedly threw the case back to the court in Palayan City in February 2017.

But last 11 July, Judge Evelyn Turla of the Palayan RTC Branch 40 issued a warrant of arrest for Maza, Ocampo, Casiño and Mariano. They have not been seen since then.

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