“We are political prisoners who have been charged in violation of the Hernandez doctrine, People vs Hernandez (99 Phil 515,July 18,1956) People vs Geronimo (100 Phil 90,October 13, 1956) and therefore should be freed.” — Tiamzon couple
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – The lawyers of political prisoners Wilma Austria and Benito Tiamzon filed an omnibus motion seeking the dismissal of 1988 charges of kidnapping with serious illegal detention.
During the hearing today, May 19 at the Branch 81 of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC), lawyers Rachel Pastores of the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) and Edre Olalia of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) argued that there is no basis for the arrest and detention of the Tiamzons.
Citing the Hernandez political doctrine, Enrile v. Salazar and People v. Dasig, Pastores said all common crimes committed in pursuit of political beliefs should be absorbed in one single crime of rebellion. According to Pastores, the complainants in the instant case stated in their affidavits that the alleged acts were politically motivated. “These charges should therefore be absorbed in a rebellion charge,” Pastores said.
Pastores said that the Tiamzons were among the respondents in a rebellion case filed before a Makati local court and which the Supreme Court has already dismissed on June 1, 2007.
“The rebellion case filed in the Makati court encompassed various allegations, acts from 1969, since the establishment of the Communist Party of the Philippines, up to 2006. Among these allegations were incidents of attacks against police and military personnel,” Pastores said.
“In the information on the kidnapping with serious illegal detention case against the accused, the complainants said the acts were carried out by NPA [New People’s Army] members. It should therefore be absorbed in the rebellion case, which has been dismissed already,” Pastores said further.
The charges were in relation to incidents on June 1, 1988. The first took place in Taguan village, Candelaria, Quezon where NPA guerrillas allegedly arrested and detained for 75 days military personnel Lt. Clarito Santos, Lt. Oscar Singson, Lt. Rommel Salamangca, and Lt. Abraham Claro Casis. The second incident occurred on the same day in Lasacan village, Tiaong, Quezon where alleged NPA guerrillas took into their custody a certain Sgt. John Jacob.
“These cases should not be brought to this court in the first place,” Olalia said during the hearing. “The filing of these cases shows evidently that the intention is to multiply the alleged acts of the accused.”
In a statement released to the media, the Tiamzon couple said the charges constitute “political persecution aimed to portray them as common criminals.”
The Tiamzons said they were not in Quezon province at the time of the incident and only learned of the NPA operations through Ang Bayan, official newspaper of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the statement of the late CPP spokesman Roger Rosal.
“We are political prisoners who have been charged in violation of the Hernandez doctrine, People vs Hernandez (99 Phil 515,July 18,1956) People vs Geronimo (100 Phil 90,October 13, 1956) and therefore should be freed,” they said.
The Tiamzons also said they are covered by safety at immunity guarantees under the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig) as consultants of the NDFP in the peace process. “In fact, we shouldn’t have been arrested,” they said.
The Tiamzons are also charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives and multiple murder in relation with the alleged mass graves found in Inopacan, Leyte.
In their omnibus motion filed before the court April 23, the lawyers invoked the principle of in dubito pro reo “on the ground that if a new charge against them [Tiamzons] is filed, the dismissal of the previous case already covers the same acts…” The lawyers further deemed that “, an identical impulse of political persecution had motivated the prosecution, and equal, if not greater transgression of procedural and substantial due process rights had occurred.”
Olalia reiterated their motion to set aside the arraignment of the Tiamzons.
Despite the objection of their lawyers, the Tiamzons were arraigned on April 8. The couple refused to enter any plea.
Olalia said the accused were not given sufficient and adequate time to study the charges against them and to prepare for the defense. The Tiamzons were informed of the arraignment only on April 7 and did not have the opportunity to confer with their lawyers, Olalia said.
“Arraignment is not a mere formality but an integral part of due process,” Olalia said.
In their omnibus motion, the lawyers stated that when Wilma Austria was arrested in 1992, she was released on recognizance without being arraigned and she was not informed of the said 1988 cases. Benito Tiamzon, on the other hand, did not have prior knowledge of the cases, the motion said.
Judge Madonna C. Echiverri of the RTC Branch 81 has set the motion for resolution.
The pre-trial was cancelled as the complainants have yet to be notified by the court.
Next hearing was set July 21.
Former Senator Rene Saguisag attended today’s hearing. Saguisag was a schoolmate of the Tiamzons in high school.
Asked what he thought of the couple, Saguisag said, “They are heroes. They are sacrificing for the good of the country, unlike those involved in the pork barrel scam.”
“We share the same dream – a better life for the Filipino people,” Saguisag said.
The Tiamzon couple and five others were arrested on March 22 in Carcar, Cebu. The military claimed that the Tiamzons are top cadres of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) said both are NDFP consultants to the peace negotiations and are covered by safety and immunity guarantees.