The Regional Trial Court Branch 266 in Taguig City on June 21, 2022 meted out CPP-NPA leader Concha Araneta life imprisonment for the murder of Metudio Inesa in Barangay Panipiason, Madalag, Aklan on September 17, 1975. (Contributed photo)

MANILA – Justice is not elusive after all for a family who lost a loved one, slain before their eyes by New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas in Aklan 47 years ago.

Metudio Inesa was killed by a group of NPA rebels under Concha Araneta in Barangay Panipiason, Madalag, Aklan on the evening of September 17, 1975, after the victim was seen by NPA spies to have welcomed Philippine Constabulary personnel at his house and provided temporary resting place and drinking water.

The Regional Trial Court Branch 266 in Taguig City found Araneta alias Maria Concepcion Araneta, Chacon, Jojo, Etang, who remains scot-free, guilty of murder and meted out life imprisonment or reclusion perpetua.

In the court decision signed by Presiding Judge Marivic C. Titor on June 21, 2022 and promulgated on June 28, 2022, the then top Communist Party of the Philippines -NPA Ieader in Panay Island was also ordered to pay Inesa’s heirs PHP100,000 as civil indemnity, PHP100,000 as moral damages, and PHP100,000 as exemplary damages with 6 percent annual interest rate from the date of the court judgment.

Reports said the hinterland barangay of Panipiason became a no-man's land due to NPA reign under Araneta, then Panay’s top CPP-NPA leader, and forced people to evacuate to the lowland barangays and in the adjacent town of Libacao, Aklan where there was an active armed resistance on the part of some local town officials and populace against the NPA operating in the municipality.

The case was filed by the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of  Aklan before the Regional Trial Court of Aklan on June 26, 1981, with two eyewitnesses to the gruesome murder.

Araneta was arrested by the military in 1985 but was ordered released from detention at Camp Delgado in Iloilo City by then President Cory Aquino a few days after she assumed office in 1986. She was among the other jailed CPP-NPA-National Democratic Front (NDF) leaders, then referred to as political prisoners, who were freed.

A day after her release and placed on house arrest, she reportedly rejoined the NPA.

On August 15, 2015, she was arrested anew by virtue of an arrest warrant issued by RTC Branch 2 of Aklan.

The trial of the murder case immediately commenced with nine National Union of Peoples Lawyers representing her during the arraignment. Prosecutor 1 Flosemer Chris Gonzales was designated by the Regional State Prosecutor to handle the prosecution of Araneta’s cases.

Other witnesses were presented in court except for another main witness who was then an overseas Filipino worker during the early stages of the trial.

In 2016, however, Araneta was released on bail so she can take part in the 2016 peace talks between the government and the CPP-NPA-NDF.

She and her NUPL lawyers were reportedly made to execute an undertaking that she will voluntarily return to the custody of the court in the event the peace negotiations fail. She, and neither her lawyers did not, however, honor this commitment. 

The court granted the prosecution’s motion for the presentation of the OFW eyewitness who was in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) via SKYPE platform.

Despite the facilitation made by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency with Philippine embassy officials in KSA, the online hearing was canceled because Araneta jumped bail.

The venue of the case trial was later transferred from Aklan to Taguig City.

Araneta, who is said to be CPP-NPA's 1st Deputy Secretary of Komiteng Rehiyon-Panay, is also charged with rebellion before the Culasi, Antique RTC Branch 13, and illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, and illegal possession of explosives before the Iloilo RTC Branch 23.

The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

The NDF has been formally designated as a terrorist organization by the Anti-Terrorism Council on June 23, 2021, citing it as “an integral and inseparable part” of the CPP-NPA created in April 1973. (PNA)