Citing several Supreme Court decisions, the lawyers argued that the charge of rebellion proscribes the filing of other offenses committed in furtherance of or in connection with rebellion.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Lawyers of political prisoners Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Tiamzon are appealing the Regional Trial court’s decision denying their motion to dismiss the 26-year-old charges against their clients.
The Tiamzon couple is facing charges of kidnapping and serious illegal detention in relation to incidents that took place from July 1988 to August 1988.
In today’s hearing, Judge Madonna Echiverri of Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 81 said the motion for reconsideration filed by the defense lawyers is submitted for resolution.
In their motion for reconsideration, lawyers from the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) and the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) reiterated that the kidnapping and serious illegal detention charges against the Tiamzons should be absorbed in the rebellion case already dismissed by the Supreme Court on June 1, 2007.
The Tiamzons are among the respondents in the rebellion case filed before a Makati regional trial court during the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The high court eventually junked the charges, noting that the preliminary investigation was tainted with irregularities.
In a decision dated June 20, Echiverri denied the motion to dismiss the charges on the ground that “the political motivation for the crime must be shown in order to justify finding the crime committed to be rebellion” and “the proof of showing political motivation is adduced during trial where the accused is assured an opportunity to present evidence supporting his defense.”
The defense lawyers reiterated in their motion for reconsideration that both Benito and Wilma have been charged with rebellion where political motive is inherent. Citing several Supreme Court decisions, the lawyers argued that the charge of rebellion proscribes the filing of other offenses committed in furtherance of or in connection with rebellion.
They added that the use of the Political Offense Doctrine during trial as a defense to attain acquittal is ultimately contrary to the constitutional safeguard against self-incrimination.
Commenting on the motion for reconsideration filed by the defense, Prosecutor Ronaldo Torralba said that the only way to establish political motive is by presenting evidence and this could only be done during trial.
The defense lawyers have also asked the court to reconsider its decision denying the motion to set aside the arraignment of the Tiamzon couple.
In today’s hearing, Torralba said the Tiamzons have several lawyers who should have studied the cases before the day of the arraignment.
In an interview immediately after the hearing, Edre Olalia, NUPL secretary general, said they were informed of the arraignment a day before the hearing. He argued that the arraignment is a substantial right. “Given the gravity of the charges, it is reasonable to give us enough time to study the case,” he said.
In denying the motion to set aside the arraignment, Echiverri said Wilma Tiamzon was then ably assisted by lawyer Arno Sanidad and was thus already properly apprised of the nature of the accusations against her.
Austria was captured in 1994 and was released on recognizance due to the peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
The defense lawyers argued that a review of the records of the case show that Sanidad only assisted accused Wilma Austria for the purpose of her release on recognizance. The lawyers said she was not apprised of the nature of the accusations against her and that there is nothing on record to prove that notices were sent to Sanidad for Wilma Austria.
Olalia said he called up Sanidad this morning to inquire about the case. Olalia said Sanidad does not remember attending any hearing to represent Wilma Tiamzon in court.
The next pre-trial hearing was set October 21.
Separate charges of multiple murder and illegal possession of firearms and explosives have been filed against the Tiamzons.
The Tiamzons attended this morning’s hearing. Printed on their shirts are the names of fellow political prisoners. Both of them wore a small sculptured clenched fist on their left chest. When asked by this reporter, Wilma said, “It’s a symbol of defiance and our yearning for freedom.”