Court trashes case vs 43 farmers in violent 2016 Kidapawan rally dispersal

Rommel Rebollido

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Court trashes case vs 43 farmers in violent 2016 Kidapawan rally dispersal
The case results from a rally staged in Kidapawan City on April 1, 2016, when farmers demanded government aid due to the effects of a drought at that time

GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines – After seven years, a local court has dismissed a criminal case filed against 43 out of 61 farmers accused by policemen of directly assaulting them during a protest rally dispersal in Kidapawan City in 2016.

Citing insufficient evidence, Judge Rebecca Elena de Leon of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities in Kidapawan City granted a demurrer filed by the defense and ordered the dismissal of Criminal Case No. 16,855-16 on Thursday, May 18. 

The case stemmed from an incident during a protest rally in front of Spotwoods Methodist Church along Quezon Boulevard in Kidapawan City in Cotabato province on April 1, 2016, when the farmers demanded government assistance due to the effects of a drought they experienced at that time.

Court trashes case vs 43 farmers in violent 2016 Kidapawan rally dispersal

Former Cotabato provincial police director Senior Superintendent Alexander Tagum ordered the immediate dispersal of the thousands of protesters who had already blocked the Davao-Cotabato Highway for several days while demanding government assistance.

Tagum, now a police brigadier general, currently leads the Davao City Metropolitan Police District.

Lawyer Ester Escobidal-Vega from the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) had filed a demurrer to evidence “on the ground that the prosecution failed to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt.”

According to a court rule, a demurrer to evidence – a motion to dismiss on the ground of insufficiency of evidence – can be filed by the accused, with or without leave of court, after the prosecution rests its case. It allows the court to dismiss the action based on insufficiency of evidence. 

“We laud the court for giving justice to said farmers. This decision proves that justice will flow like a river in our country as the PAO and its poor clients are waiting for swift and just victories for the Filipino people,” said PAO head Persida Acosta.

The court decision noted that Tagum failed to identify the farmers who caused him injuries during a commotion. Neither did other policemen and firemen who testified against the protesters identify the attackers.

In their complaint, Tagum and the other policemen and firefighters alleged that the farmers attacked them by throwing stones during the dispersal.

The court said the burden of proving the guilt of the accused was on the prosecutors, and the strength of their case, and not the weakness of the defense, determined the outcome of the criminal case.

De Leon said in her decision that since “the prosecution has clearly failed to discharge its burden of overcoming the presumption of innocence of the accused by proving their guilt beyond reasonable doubt, the Court holds that it finds the evidence insufficient for their conviction with no recourse other than to dismiss the case which is tantamount to a judgment of acquittal.”

But in the order, De Leon clarified that only the case against the 43 accused had been dismissed because the remaining accused were still at large.

The court cleared the following farmers:

  • Edwin Inagong
  • Randy Mailam
  • Antonio Lapiz
  • Gabriel Awod
  • Jonathan Awod
  • Loreto Felizardo
  • Norberto Andrecio
  • Reymund Otti
  • Jerry Vicente
  • Joel Ventura
  • Lomeryano Agustin
  • Marcelo Maglahos
  • Eric Santos
  • Rodolfo Taño
  • Noylee Paglinawan
  • Edgardo Barrientos
  • Arnel Takyawan
  • Arlene Candiban
  • Mercedita Arcillas
  • Victor Lumundang
  • Dionisio Lagos
  • Jovita Debalid
  • Estella Fabligar
  • Marjorie Buguat
  • Erlinda Badol
  • Jenilyn Dagohoy
  • Rolinda Paunil
  • Eliza Celestial
  • Melodia Delos Reyes
  • Rosemary Joma
  • Josephine Retalado
  • Valentina Berdin
  • Vilma Vicente
  • Ederlyn Daelto
  • Emelda Penaso
  • Lolita Porras
  • Richard Emboc
  • Alfie Awe
  • Felix Palo
  • Melanie Canja
  • Jennyphier Saylon
  • Antonio Opiniano
  • Patricio Lobito

The remaining 18 accused who are still at large are the following:

  • Zandro Redondo
  • Henry Celis
  • Roxan Roquieño
  • Jhundel Cadelina
  • Darwin Magyao
  • Mark Anthony Delgado
  • Junsing Maganod
  • Junary Condiman
  • Mike Empet
  • Erwin Villaras
  • Adelina Rizardo
  • Ruby Jane Canja
  • Irene Padilla
  • Jenny Barrientos
  • Leonora Paunil
  • Meriam Damiog
  • Joy Regondon
  • Conchita Embac

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