Family seeks reinvestigation of Peñas case

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/27 July) – The family of slain Sumilao, Bukidnon farmer-leader Renato “Ka Rene” Peñas is pushing for a reinvestigation of his case after it was closed in 2010 after the two witnesses retracted their affidavits.

Wopsyjenn Peñas, daughter of the slain farmer, told MindaNews that more than three years after he was shot to death, justice remains elusive for his father.

Peñas was a leader of the Sumilao farmers who established the Mapalad Multi-Purpose Cooperative, which demanded the full redistribution of 94 hectares of the 114-hectare Quisumbing estate in San Vicente, Sumilao. The farmers staged a grueling Sumilao to Manila march in 2007 to press their demand.

The younger Peñas said they have a serious problem in their quest for justice since the police had allegedly refused to reopen the investigation because the family cannot present a new witness.

Napoleon Merida Jr., chairperson of the Panaw Sumilao Multi-purpose Cooperative, said a police investigator in Sumilao had told them it is still possible to reopen the case if the family can present a new witness.

“That’s a problem because we have no new witness. We also think that it’s the job of the police, not us the victims,” Merida stressed.

Peñas and Merida were among the participants on Thursday of the Community-based Dialogue Sessions on Human Rights Promotion and Protection of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and civil society organizations in Bukidnon.

Supt. Erwin Bayani Meneses, Bukidnon deputy provincial police director for operations, told MindaNews they are now in contact with the family for a possible reinvestigation.

He admitted that although it can help that the family can present additional evidence, it is not obligatory for them to do it before a case can be reinvestigated.

Merida said the case was closed when witness Samson Dollete retracted his affidavit.

“By that point, the police should have reinvestigated the case,” he added.

Dollete, one of the two witnesses who recanted his statement, has since died due to an illness.

Peñas and his two companions were ambushed in Barangay San Vicente, Sumilao midnight on June 5, 2009. His companions survived the attack, which took place some 200 meters away from the house of Alipio Tumangday, one of the three suspects.

Tumangday was arrested the following day, after Dollete, one of the survivors of the attack, identified him in an affidavit as one of the suspects.

The two other suspects have remained in hiding.

A fact-finding mission led by Balaod Mindanaw in July 2009 recommended that a full-blown multi-agency investigation be conducted “in order to explore other possible angles and motives for the killing.”

The mission also pushed for then PNP Director General Jesus Versoza to
“investigate the Sumilao and Bukidnon police, particularly those involved in the Rene Peñas case, and order their immediate relief and replacement, as necessary, to ensure impartiality and the adequate protection of the community.”

It further asked the NBI to “effectively protect all vital informants and witnesses.”

In 2009, Penas’ family called for a deeper investigation of the case even if the police were then zeroing in on Tumangday and his alleged accomplices.

“I am angry. Our cry is for justice. The government should give an appropriate investigation,” Noland, eldest of Penas’ four children said then.

But Noland, provincial coordinator of the Pakisama dismissed personal grudge as the motive behind his father’s death.

He said his father was killed for supporting the extension of CARP and other farmers’ groups. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)