Aetas jailed under anti-terror law plead to join petitions

Two Aetas, jailed since August 2020 at the Olongapo District Jail under the contentious anti-terror law, submitted on Tuesday, February 2, a pleading to the Supreme Court asking to join the 37 petitions seeking to void the law.

Zambales indigenous peoples Japer Gurung and Junior Ramos filed a petition for intervention, telling the Supreme Court about their ordeal – allegedly 6 days of brutal and inhumane torture in the hands of the military.

Gurung and Ramos were accused of firing at members of the 73rd Division Reconnaissance company of the military's 7th Infantry Division on August 21, 2020, resulting in the death of Sergeant Rudil Dilao. They were charged and jailed under Section 4(a) of the anti-terror law or "acts intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to any person, or endangers a person's life." (READ: Cheat sheet: Supreme Court anti-terror law oral arguments)

But according to Gurung and Ramos, "they were evacuating their homes to avoid being caught in the crossfire when they were arrested by the military" at Sitio Lumibao, Barangay Buhawen, San Marcelino, Zambales. They said the military trespassed on their ancestral land.

"Petitioners-Intervenors were held for six days, during which they were interrogated and repeatedly mauled while being forced to admit membership with the New People's Army (NPA)," said the petition, signed by the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL), who also represents several groups of petitioners.

"Gurung was asphyxiated with cigarette smoke while a plastic bag was placed over his head, placed inside a sack and hung upside down, and ordered to eat his own human feces," said the petition.

The petition accused the soldiers of planting explosives, ammunitions, and subversive documents.

The 37 petitions will be heard during oral arguments Tuesday afternoon after a long wait. Solicitor General Jose Calida will defend the law opposite 7 oralists picked by the petitioners, led by former solicitor general Jose Anselmo Cadiz.

The petition for intervention said adding Gurung and Ramos will not unduly delay the case, especially since there is no temporary restraining order (TRO) yet.

"Neither will the other Petitioners be adversely affected, considering that they share the same disputes and trepidations about the assailed law with Petitioners-Intervenors," said the petition.

"On the contrary, it will further underscore and demonstrate the great evils and real dangers of applying, implementing or misusing the assailed law," the petition added.

Gurung and Ramos have been arraigned before an Olongapo City court, where both pleaded not guilty. A trial has been scheduled. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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