“Logically, affidavits and evidence presented during a preliminary investigation must at least show these elements of the crime and the particular participation of each of the respondents in its commission. Otherwise, there would be no basis for a well-founded belief that a crime has been committed, and that the persons being charged are probably guilty thereof.”
By TISA NACIONAL
MANILA – The Department of Justice (DOJ) has junked charges of human trafficking and child abuse filed against Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison, former Kabataan Partylist Representative Sarah Elago, and several other youth activists.
In an 18-page resolution dated May 17, 2022, the DOJ recommended the dismissal of the complaint filed by Luisa Espina, mother of a youth activist who she claims is missing, against Sison and others for lack of probable cause.
The DOJ panel of prosecutors said that the complainant was not able to specifically point out the participation of the respondents to the said acts.
“Logically, affidavits and evidence presented during a preliminary investigation must at least show these elements of the crime and the particular participation of each of the respondents in its commission. Otherwise, there would be no basis for a well-founded belief that a crime has been committed, and that the persons being charged are probably guilty thereof,” the resolution read.
The DOJ resolution was signed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Jeanette Dacpano and Prosecution Attorney Alyssa Nezren P. Mangata.
Espina filed the complaint in 2021, accusing the respondents of human trafficking and child abuse/exploitation after her daughter left their home on December 16, 2018. In a letter bidding her mother goodbye, her daughter explained her desire to leave her comfortable life to “serve the oppressed.”
Prior to her departure in 2018, Espina stated in her affidavit that her daughter repeatedly left home for long periods of time after she joined Anakbayan when she was 16 years old.
Espina claimed that the respondents radicalized and eventually recruited her daughter into the CPP-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDF) under the guise of joining Anakbayan.
Aside from Sison and Elago, the youth activists included in the complaint were Angelica Reyes, Kylie Paul Anareta, Sittie Sharine Amerol, Lalaine Ramos, Alexis Danday, Vencer Crisostomo, Einstein Recedes, Caryl Jane Bequillo, and other unnamed respondents. Of the named respondents, only Elago, Reyes, Amerol, and Bequillo filed counter-affidavits denying Espina’s claims.
Complainant failed to show evidence
The DOJ said in its resolution that Espina bore the burden of presenting evidence that the respondents committed overt and explicit acts constituting trafficking, and that Espina failed to show this element during the preliminary investigation by merely supplementing her allegations with “broad statements.”
“Charges based on mere suspicion and speculation cannot be given credence. When the complainant relies on mere conjectures and suppositions, and fails to substantiate her allegations, the complaint must be dismissed for lack of merit,” the resolution read.
It clarified that going out and taking photos with Espina’s daughter and delivering her letters for her were not acts of recruitment. The resolution also added that Espina’s witnesses, who claimed to be former members of the CPP-NPA-NDF, had no relevant connection to the case at hand.
Kabataan Partylist welcomes DOJ resolution
In their press release, Kabataan Partylist called out the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict’s (NTF-ELCAC) sensationalization of family conflicts in an attempt to “manipulate parents to clamp down on youth involvement in politics and public affairs.”
The partylist said Espina’s complaint is yet another NTF-ELCAC-backed case reusing accusations from other similar cases already dismissed by the Supreme Court and the DOJ.
Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raoul Manuel said this is a victory for the youth and student movement for democratic rights.
“Filing and processing of cases like these are a huge waste of people’s taxes. This scheme of harassing the youth and the people through fake charges must stop,” he said.
Not the first case
This is not the first time that the DOJ dismissed cases against youth leaders as well as personalities in the mass movement.
In 2020, the DOJ also dismissed kidnapping and other charges against former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, Elago and other youth leaders. The charges were filed by Relissa Lucena, mother of Anakbayan member Alicia Jasper Lucena, and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.
Two complaints were also junked in May October 2020 and February 2021, both for lack of probable cause.
Read: DOJ junks kidnapping, other charges vs. rights lawyer, youth leaders
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Read: DOJ junks police’s plea to revive charges vs youth activists
In September 2020, the Supreme Court also dismissed the petition for writs of amparo and habeas corpus filed by Lucena against Anakbayan and Elago saying that the writ of amparo “is not proper” and that the writ of habeas corpus “lacks merit.”
According to progressive groups these trumped up charges are meant to silence the critics of the government. (AMU, RVO)