By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Political prisoner Maoj Maga welcomed the recent decision of the Court of Appeals, reversing his conviction for charges of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.
The CA said that the prosecution failed to prove Maga’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
In its decision made public on Sept. 18, the appellate court said the search of Maga’s backpack inside the vehicle during his arrest on February 22, 2018 was unlawful and unreasonable.
The CA said that the prosecution witnesses were clear that Maga was arrested at the basketball court, while the search of his backpack took place after they had all boarded their private vehicle.
“A reasonable inference may be drawn that the arresting officers handcuffed him, before they boarded him on their private vehicle where they conducted the search of Maga’s backpack. An examination of the record convinces us that the circumstances did not give rise to a reasonable belief that the accused-appellant’s backpack contained either a weapon or destructible evidence to warrant the exigency requirement,” the CA decision read.
The CA said the firearms and live ammunition allegedly recovered therefrom constitutes inadmissible evidence in accordance to the exclusionary clause stated in the 1987 Constitution “for being the proverbial fruit of the poisonous tree.”
“By negating the admissibility in evidence of items seized in illegal searches and seizures, the Constitution declines to validate the law enforcers’ illicit conduct. Given that said illegal firearm and ammunition are the very corpus delicti of the crime charged, accused appellant Maga must necessarily be acquitted and exonerated from criminal liability,” the decision read.
Maga was convicted on June 3, 2019 with eight to 12 months imprisonment by Branch 76 of the Regional Trial Court of San Mateo Rizal.
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In a post on the Facebook account of Maga’s wife Lengua de Guzman, Maga said that the CA’s decision is only a step towards truth and his freedom since state forces have filed yet another trumped-up case of murder against him and is now pending before the local court in Cabadbaran, Agusan del Norte.
“Maoj and I warmly welcome the Court of Appeals decision granting our Appeal. It is an initial victory – one that is bitter sweet. It is a battle hard fought, but the fight is not yet over,” said De Guzman.
Maga is implicated in the alleged 2017 murder of a soldier.
For Fides Lim, spokesperson of Kapatid, a support group for families and friends of political prisoners, this latest decision of the CA is highly significant for being one of the series of court wins against former President Duterte’s crackdown on dissent and activism.
She said this should prompt all courts to “likewise take a longer, harder look at all government cases against activists in their docket, especially illegal possession of firearms and explosives that were in fact planted, making them, as court after court is now stating, ‘the proverbial fruits of a poisonous tree.’ They should be dismissed,” said Lim.
Last week the CA voided two search warrants against activists Reina Mae Nasino, Alma Moran and Ram Bautista. (RTS, RVO)