By: Modesto Sa-onoy
THE CASE involving the alleged gunmen and accomplices in the murder of RTC Judge Henry Arles has deteriorated into a propaganda war and in the process the avalanche of contradicting information has muddled the issues with serious implications in politics in the province.
The dramatis personae and the stakes are high that the parties to this crime need to gain favorable public perception.
The accused master-mind is Ilog Mayor Paul Alvarez, son of Occidental Negros Vice-Governor Genaro Alvarez and brother of Cong. Mercedes Alvarez. The family belongs to the prominent Montilla clan that had long been in the center stage of Negros politics, economics and history.
The accused gunmen and accessories to the alleged crime are members of the Revolutionary Proletariat Army - Alex Boncayao Brigade that had broken away from the New People’s Army. The NPA had charged its former comrades of selling out, of brigandage and being tools of the military and even as hired guns.
The RPA-ABB and the military had denied these charges. The RPA, the military and the former rebels claim they are in fact, helping in the enforcement of the law.
The family of Judge Arles has among its members, lawyers who have connections in higher reaches of the government.
The National Bureau of Investigation is under siege from the media-adept RPA-ABB three of whose members had been arrested and implicated in the murder. The NBI said that the three accused RPA members had confessed voluntarily while the RPA, and the family of the three accused, claim they were tortured.
The RPA questioned the manner of the arrest and why the suspects were brought to Manila when the crime was committed here in Negros.
The gravity of the crime and the personalities involved are the stuff of a good media story so that when it broke in the evening of June 27 during the Negros Press Club induction, the talk revolved around the report that Mayor Alvarez had been charged. Speculations as to the impact of this development flew like birds let out of a cage.
The propaganda war took over. The NBI was interviewed by all networks and broadcasters analyze the story no end.
Then the RPA held its own press conference and came out with a claim that the three were actually abducted by the NBI. The RPA and the family insisted on its claim of abduction and that it had raised the matter to the Commission on Human Rights because of the reported torture to exact from them information that would implicate the Alvarez family.
Basically, the RPA and the family claimed that the procedure of the NBI was improper and that the venue should be in Negros not Manila, but the NBI considered the situation serious enough for its national office to intervene.
They showed an alleged letter from one of the suspects saying that they were taken against their will, they are in the custody of the NBI and the Arles family and that they were tortured.
There was fear that the suspects could be rubbed out. This prompted the NBI to bring them to Manila to protect the suspects. It is not clear who the NBI refers to as the parties that would take out the suspects, but the suspicion is that the RPA would do it. This is possible considering the belief and accusation of the NBI that the RPA and the Arles family that the RPA has become a hired gun in southern Negros.
The Arles family also called for a press conference and debunked the claim. They presented a video clip showing the suspects unhurt and that their testimony was voluntary. They also elaborated on the initial news report but widening the number of the suspects.
Their narrative was very detailed and the presence of the Negros media during the initial NBI investigation tended to disprove the RPA and the family’s claim of kidnapping and torture.
This propaganda war heated further when the Alvarez family also convened a press conference but aside from denying the accusations and banking on their history of honest service for generations the family has nothing to present. They claimed that the NBI process was faulty but what was disturbing that created a lot of speculation was the statement of Vice Governor Lim-ao Alvarez that regardless of the charges, they will not relent from their political plans.
This can be interpreted and misinterpreted several ways but only the filing of certificates of candidacy this October will make this statement clearer. Or this can come earlier when the Nationalist People’s Coalition decides on its line-up for 2013 election which is expected this month.
What is ominous is the insinuation of Alvarez that the case is intended to undercut his or his family’s political plans. The Arles family opposes the Alvarez family in the 6th district.