Murder Charges Against Peasant Dismissed

The Ilocos Sur Provincial Prosecution Service provisionally dismissed the murder case against a peasant for insufficient evidence.

BY ROD TAJON
Northern Dispatch
Human Rights Watch
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VII, No. 32, September 16-22, 2007

VIGAN CITY (407 km north of Manila)- The Ilocos Sur Provincial Prosecution Service provisionally dismissed the murder case against a peasant for insufficient evidence.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) Sinait, Ilocos Sur charged Virgilio Tumbaga, a resident of Brgy. Nagcullooban, Sinait, Ilocos Sur, and other unidentified individuals with murder for the death of Pfc Elmer Antonio who was killed when soldiers were pursuing New People’s Army (NPA) guerillas. The pursuit operations happened after an encounter between the NPA and soldiers from the 50 th IBPA on March 14, 2007.

The dismissal of the murder charges was contained in a resolution signed by 3rd Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Bonifacio Mangibin and approved by Provincial Prosecutor Jessica Viloria. The resolution stated that the undisputed fact was that there was a firefight between the military and the NPA. While the military was pursuing the rebels, the resolution noted, the soldiers were fired upon from an elevated position. It was then, the military claimed, that they saw Virgilio Tumbaga firing the first shot.

“This statement is incredible and it counters human experience since the attack was so sudden such that they cannot see their enemies at the first instance,” the resolution said.

Human shields

Last April, the joint affidavit of the military also stated that the NPA rebels took children to serve as human shields.

A fact-finding mission report of the Ilocos Human Rights Advocates (IHRA-Karapatan) revealed, however, that during the firefight the people in Sitio Caset left their homes and evacuated in the adjacent sitio.

The fact finding mission team also said that the claim by the military that two children were taken as human shields appeared highly improbable.  It asserted that if that were the case, the military should have asked the children or their parents if they knew or could recognize their abductors but they did not.

Rhanny Belle Urbis, Public Information Officer of IHRA-Karapatan also said that the military illegally searched the house of Tumbaga. No warrant was showed when they searched Tumbaga’s house in March 15, the next day after the encounter.

“The family, due to their fear cannot do anything but agree to the military.” Urbis added.

Also, the military reported that Tumbaga’s daughter, Judelyn Tumbaga-Inong, voluntarily turned over paraphernalia and belongings supposedly left by the rebels. The team also found this highly improbable as a daughter would not implicate her own father.

During the fact-finding mission, the team also found out that the military threatened Tumbaga before arresting  him.  The soldiers were quoted as saying, “No adda pay mapasamak ditoy ayanyo ket dakayo lattan ti pidutinmin” (If anything happens in your place, we will pick you up).

In August 2007, the Tumbaga family and IHRA-Karapatan obtained a copy of the Resolution of the Provincial Prosecutor Office. Presently, the Tumbagas plan to file a complaint against the military before various human rights organizations.

IHRA-Karapatan said in a statement that “We are happy that the fabricated case against an innocent peasant was dismissed, however, we fear that more civilians will be victimized by the atrocities of the state in line with the Oplan Bantay Laya 2 as manifested in (Tumbaga’s) militarized community,” the statement stressed.

“These schemes that the military is conducting is a clear picture of Arroyo’s desperation to cling on to power until 2010. The fascist regime resorts to widespread militarization to suppress the rights of the people. The mere presence of the military is bound to commit numerous cases of human rights violations,” the statement concluded. Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat

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