For three Ilocos peasant leaders recently freed after what they described as fabricated charges against them were dismissed, their struggle is far from over.
BY ROD TAJON
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VII, No. 34, September 30-October 6, 2007
VIGAN CITY, Ilocos Sur (407 kms north of Manila) – For three Ilocos peasant leaders recently freed after what they described as fabricated charges against them were dismissed, their struggle is far from over.
Acquitted recently of murder and other charges in relation to the assault of a police station in Sta. Lucia, Ilocos Sur (369 kms north of Manila), Julian Daoa, Leonardo Sabalo and Rogelio Bilog, all of the Solidarity of Peasants against Exploitation (STOP Exploitation) are set to file counter-charges before various human rights bodies against police and military forces for fabricating cases against them.
Judge Policarpio Martinez of Branch 71, Candon City Regional Trial Court recently dismissed the murder, robbery and arson charges against the three for lack of evidence. His three-page decision mentioned that the witnesses failed to identify the three.
Daoa, Sabalo and Bilog, with their legal counsel, are preparing to file charges at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (GRP-NDFP) Joint Monitoring Committee sometime next month.
Bilog said the fabricated charges against them put their lives at risk. “We are only doing what is right for the people, we fight for the rights of peasants for genuine land reform, yet the Arroyo government through its police and military forces fabricate cases against us to terrorize the people,” he stressed.
“There were even rumors that we had been convicted for rape and sentenced to 40 years in jail,” Sabado added.
Bilog added that now that they are freed, they would continue to arouse, organize, and mobilize more peasants to thwart the schemes of the Arroyo administration in “persecuting” political activists.
Their two-month detention at the Ilocos Sur Provincial Jail, according to Sabalo, affected their families.
“Our families have been humiliated and we were publicly condemned for the crimes we did not commit,” said Sabado, whose wife, when he was hauled off to jail, was six months pregnant.
“The fascist GMA regime has once again failed in its legal offensives to crack down on progressive organizations,” said STOP Exploitation secretary-general Zaldy Alfiler.
Alfiler cited the cases of Virgilio Tumbaga (who was accused of murdering a soldier) and United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) pastor Francisco Bunuan (accused of killing Conrado Balweg) which were similarly dismissed recently, all due to insufficient evidence. Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat