A local court said that two Aeta farmers charged with terrorism were just running at the moment of their arrest, and thus, their warrantless arrest was unlawful.
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – The Olongapo Regional Trial Court dismissed the first known case of terrorism filed against two Aeta farmers for insufficiency of evidence.
A decision dated July 15 by Presiding Judge Melani Fay Tadili of the Olongapo RTC Branch 97 said that Aeta farmers Japer Gurung and Junior Ramos “were not proven to be the perpetrators of the acts of terrorism” under Section 4 of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
Tadili noted the inconsistencies in the testimonies of the witnesses in the court and in their affidavits.
Tadili added that Gurung and Reamos were just running at the moment of their arrest, and thus, their warrantless arrest was unlawful. Tadili also declared all evidence against Gurung and Ramos as inadmissible.
It would be remembered that Gurung and Ramos were arrested by elements of the 73rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army on August 21, 2020 while evacuating from their village in sitio Lumibao, barangay Buhawen, San Marcelino, Zambales. They were accused of being members of the New People’s Army.
In a statement, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) President Edre Olalia said that they are happy with the acquittal of their former clients “who have been unjustly charged with frivolous and worse, trumped-up charges.”
“Their rightful acquittal is well-deserved even as they had to go through the ordeal for some time,” Olalia said.
Gurung and Ramos were reportedly tortured for a week. Gurung was also reportedly forced by the soldiers to eat human feces.
“That they have to undergo horrible and unimaginable torture, which remains undisputed to this day, and made pawns by the very State that put them in jail in the first place and whose self-righteous agents even brazenly committed possibly unethical conduct to snatch them away from their original counsel to defuse the focus on the patent injustice on them, is an indelible mark that is irreparable,” Olalia said.
Gurung and Ramos were previous clients of the NUPL. However, after representatives from the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) reportedly visited the two Aetas in jail, the two withdrew from NUPL and availed the services of the Public Attorneys’s Office.
Prior to this, the two Aetas also asked the Supreme Court to issue a writ of preliminary injunction last February but this was junked by the high court.
In 2010, the court also dismissed the terrorism charges under the Human Security Act of 2007 against another Aeta, Edgar Candule. The Zambales court said that the prosecution failed to prove the crime of terrorism.
Candule, who was arrested in March 2008, endured 32 months of detention. Under the Human Security Act, particularly Sec. 50, Candule would have been entitled to P500,000 for every day he was detained, or a total of P480 million as compensation for illegal detention. The Zambales court dismissed this, compelling Candule’s lawyers to appeal the decision before the Court of Appeals.
Under the Anti-Terror Act, which amended the HSA, such provisions for accountability and safeguards were removed. (RVO)