By EMILY VITAL
MANILA — A local court in Abra dismissed the rebellion charges against community journalist and environmental defender Sherwin de Vera.
In a decision dated Sept. 17, Judge Corpuz Alzate of Bangued Regional Trial Court Branch 2 said that the “state had no evidence to present” against De Vera, now managing editor of Northern Dispatch, an alternative media outfit based in Baguio City.
The charges were filed by the Philippine Army in connection with alleged incidents of encounter between government troops and the New People’s Army that took place in 2013 and 2014. The court, however, said that the sole witness presented in court did not at all mention the name of De Vera.
De Vera was arrested on Dec. 12, 2017 in Bantay, Ilocos Sur over the fabricated charges. He was allowed to post bail after one month in detention.
In an online interview, De Vera welcomed the development. “The court’s decision is a breath of fresh air from the unrelenting attacks against environmental advocates and journalists,” he told Bulatlat.
Members of Northern Dispatch have been red-tagged by state security forces via social media. The website of the online media outfit was also subjected to distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack early this year. One of the staff has been charged with libel.
De Vera maintained that the case filed against him was “intended to discredit his advocacy.” “It was meant to intimidate me and others working for the protection of our land and resources against corporate plunder and destruction.”
De Vera said that the dismissal of the case is a victory and vindication. “It is the result of collective efforts from different groups, and individuals who stood by me, my family and my organization,” he said.