“Facts and circumstances to prove that they are guilty of the crime have also not been met.”
Sidebar story: Political persecution from Arroyo to Duterte regime
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – The Palayan Regional Trial Court dismissed the double murder case against former Bayan Muna Representatives Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casiño, former Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano and National Anti-Poverty Commission lead convenor and Secretary Liza Maza, collectively called as Makabayan 4, on Aug. 8.
Palayan Regional Trial Court Acting Presiding Judge Trese Wenceslao, in the decision, also quashed the warrant of arrest against them.
Wenceslao said that “probable cause has not been established to warrant the arrest” of the four. Facts and circumstances to prove that they are guilty of the crime have also not been met, according to the decision.
“For them to stand trial and be deprived in the meantime of their liberty, however brief, would be a flagrant violation of a basic right which the courts are created to uphold,” the decision read.
The Makabayan 4 has taken precautionary measures to protect themselves after Judge Evelyn Atienza-Turla has ordered their arrest on July 11 over a 12-year old double murder charge.
“In sum, the case was built on lies and malice. The dismissal proves that the cases have no basis at all and are merely trumped up, utilizing perjured and already discredited witnesses. The motive of the lying was to tarnish the reputations of the Makabayan leaders and their organizations, and to politically persecute them,” said Public Interest Law Center managing counsel Rachel F. Pastores.
Pastores added that the case “must now be buried in the grave of fabricated charges, especially along with the rebellion case dismissed by the Supreme Court in 2007.” Pastores dubbed it as “figments of imagination of the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG) during the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo administration.”
“Truth prevails,” said the Facebook post of Casino’s wife, lawyer Ruth Cervantes, upon learning that the case was dismissed.
Meanwhile, Gabriela Women’s Party said the dismissal of the case is a slapped on the faces of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque and lawyer Ferdinand Topacio who offered a bounty for the arrest of the Makabayan 4.
“We were correct in saying before that they were just staging a comedy show in their bluffs and threats to Makabayan 4 to compensate for the poorly scripted murder accusations. At the end, it is the people’s call for truth and stand against political persecution that will prevail,” said GWP Rep. Emmi De Jesus.
Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao meanwhile said public support for the Makabayan 4 also played a role in the dismissal of the case.
“The relentless support of families, friends, people’s organizations, from the professionals as well including church workers played one of the key role which prompted the dismissal of murder charges against the Makabayan 4 penned by Palayan RTC Judge Trese Wenceslao,” said Casilao in a statement.
On Aug. 12, supporters, friends and colleagues from all walks of life gathered to show their unity to defend the Makabayan 4.
Casilao also stressed that the fight does not end in the dismissal of the case. He said the fact remains that President Duterte’s government, like the other previous administrations, “is hell bent” in curtailing people’s rights especially those who are exposing anti-people policies.
“Those behind the resurrection of trumped-up charges against the Makabayan 4, though failed to arrest them, will always make another attempt to continue their plan not only against Ka Satur, Ka Paeng, Teddy and Liza but also against thousands of mass activists, leaders and masses supporting the just cause for genuine social change and for just and lasting peace, the Anakpawis lawmaker said.
Pastores said this a lesson for the IALAG, now called as Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Action or IACLA.
“As a matter of integrity, the government must shut up all their false witnesses. As a matter of justice, the filing of trumped-up cases against leaders and members of progressive organizations should stop,” said Pastores.