July 17, 2007

Cebu City–A regional trial court in Cebu dismissed for “utter lack of probable cause” trumped up charges filed by the Intelligence Service of the AFP and 78th Infantry Battalion against 27 activists and four (4) other individuals.

In a four-page order issued on Thursday (July 12, 2007), Executive Judge Ceasar Estrera of RTC 7-Branch 29 in Toledo City also “quashed” the charge sheet after finding a total lack of basis to hold the activists for trial on allegations of murder.

Emmylou Buñi-Cruz, staff of KARAPATAN-Central Visayas, and one of the respondents in the said case, lauded its dismissal saying anybody can see it as pure harassment designed to justify more attacks against human rights workers and advocates under the so-called legal offensive of the government’s OPLAN Bantay Laya.

Other activists named in the dismissed case were Preciosa Daño, coordinator of BAYAN Muna; and organizers and officers of local formations of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Cebu.

The complaint was filed by ISAFP and 78th IB on April 19, 2006 before the prosecutor’s office baselessly accusing the activists of being members of the New People’s Army who ambushed a section of Charlie Coy-78th IB in Tabuelan town in March of that year.

The court however questioned the logic of the allegation saying, “It stands to reason that what had happened was a “legitimate” encounter which, being such, no one can be held answerable for no one can be wrong on the side of right (legitimate). It may even be said that even if the gun battle with insurgents was not lawful (or legitimate), still the latter could not be held liable for the resulting deaths by virtue of its being an “encounter.”

The court also chastised the military and the prosecutors, “Before writing finis to this dissertation, it is well-nigh to remind the government prosecutors, as well as those concerned, of the (wise) sage, saying: While craving for justice, it is never wise to be unjust to others.” ###


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