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June 12, 2008

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Suspect in Jose Doton Case Convicted but
Quest for Justice Continues

Today, we welcome the decision of Judge Ulysses Butuyan of the Regional Trial Court Branch 51 of Tayug, Pangasinan in the case of the People of the Philippines versus Joel Flores charged with the murder of Jose Doton - a staunch oppositionist against the San Roque Multi-purpose Dam Project. In the said decision, Joel Flores was sentenced to 41 years of imprisonment for the murder of Jose Doton and 10 years of imprisonment for the frustrated murder of Diosdado 'Cancio' Doton. The court also ordered the suspect to pay the heirs of the Doton family PHP 500,000 and P200,000.00 for Diosdado Doton as damages. This is a first for the more nine hundred cases of extrajudicial killings in the country.

Jose Doton or Apo Jose as he was fondly called was killed last May 16, 2006 in San Nicholas, Pangasinan by motorcycle-riding assassins about 200 meters from his home. His brother, Cancio Doton who was with him at that time, was seriously wounded during the incident.

Joel Flores, strongly believed to be a n agent of the State, was arrested in mid-2006 due to the courage and persistence of the Doton family and members of different people's organizations in seeking justice for Apo Jose's death.

Prior to the killing, Jose Doton received death threats, was subjected to a vilification campaign and surveillance in the same pattern as other victims of extrajudicial killings under Pres. Arroyo's Operation Plan Bantay Laya (Freedom Watch). He was tagged as a communist sympathizer and a terrorist and was also harassed with statements that he was listed in the Armed Forces of the Philippines Order of Battle.

We commend Judge Butuyan for deciding on the merits of the case and lawyer Atty. Alfie Bince of the Pangasinan Integrated Bar of the Philippines who prosecuted the case for the Doton family. Very instrumental in the quest for justice is the unwavering persistence of the Doton family and the continuing campaign for justice by different people's organizations like HUSTISYA, Tignayan dagiti Mannalon a Mangwayawaya ti Agno (TIMMAWA) or Peasant Movement to Free the Agno, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan - Pangasinan (New Patriotic Alliance - Pangasinan Chapter), Cordillera People's Alliance, and Cordillera Human Rights Alliance.

At the international level, various groups have raised their concern on the extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. Wayawaya (Freedom) - a human rights advocates group for the Philippines based in Japan has helped in bringing international attention to the case. Due to the work of Wayawaya, Amnesty International and Friends of the Earth in Japan and the local campaign here, the Japanese government and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) have made the solving of the Doton case as a precondition to the release of the remaining Official Development Aid for the San Roque Multi-purpose Dam Project to the Philippine government.

While we consider the conviction as a ray of hope in our quest for justice for victims of human rights violations, more work has to be done to fully deliver justice for Apo Jose's death. The mastermind and the companions of Flores who carried out the killing still have to be identified, arrested and brought to justice. Further, Operation Plan Bantay Laya - the policy behind the extrajudicial killings is still in place and the extrajudicial killings of activists and other human rights violations still continue. The sincere addressing of the extrajudicial killings must not end with the conviction or prosecution of a single suspect. The violations must immediately be stopped, those in command must be held accountable and the policies behind the disrespect of human rights completely scrapped.#

For reference:

Atty. Reynaldo Cortes
Cordillera Human Rights Alliance

Joan Carling
HUSTISYA - Northern Luzon

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