MANILA, Philippines – National Democratic Front (NDF) peace talks consultant Renante Gamara was cleared of a set of charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives, making him the 27th activist to have cases junked by courts this 2022 alone.
The Marikina Regional Trial Court Branch 193 junked one count of illegal possession of firearms and one count of illegal possession of explosives against Gamara in a decision by Judge Alice Gutierrez dated August 3, released by his lawyers at the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) on Thursday, August 4.
Gamara, a labor leader, was arrested in Cavite and detained on different but similar charges on March 20, 2019, or nine days before the search was conducted on his supposed house that yielded the Marikina charges.
Gamara cannot walk free yet because the Cavite case is still on trial.
At the time, Gamara was among the activists rearrested when former president Rodrigo Duterte terminated the peace talks with the communists.
“None of the cases against peace consultants for allegedly possessing unlicensed firearms and explosives have prospered so far, showing clearly and steadily how persecuting them has been a waste of time and public funds,” said the PILC in a statement Thursday.
The search in a house in Marikina on March 29, 2019, after he was already detained, was made on the basis of a warrant by Quezon City Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos Villavert, notorious for issuing the search warrants that resulted in arrests and detentions.
The Supreme Court, in 2021, scrapped the power of the Quezon City and Manila executive judges to issue search warrants outside of their jurisdictions after pressure from activists and lawyers, who complained that they have enabled abuses by state agents.
For Gamara’s Marikina case, Gutierrez noted that the consultant was not even present in the house that the police officers searched and raided. The judge said an element of illegal possession is the object being under “the dominion and control” of the person.
“Aside from the fact that accused Gamara is in detention at the time the search was conducted, it was not established that he is actually a resident thereat or has been residing therein,” said Gutierrez in her decision.
The police used a testimony from a water delivery boy that a gun was seen in the house, and Gamara was a resident.
“Mere speculations and probabilities cannot substitute for proof required to establish the guilt of an accused beyond reasonable doubt,” said the judge.
Illegal possession of firearms and explosives are the usual charges against activists. In turn, activists have alleged that state agents plant evidence during their raids. It is also the reason why the Supreme Court, also in 2021, required law enforcement to wear body cameras when implementing any kind of warrant.
Gutierrez also junked the charge of illegal possession of explosives, saying that the prosecution was “unsuccessful in establishing an unbroken chain of custody of the allegedly confiscated fragmentation hand grenade, creating serious doubt as to the corpus delicti of the crime charged.”
“The dismissal of the cases proves and highlights the enormous embarrassment upon the law enforcement agencies for fabricating cases and planting evidence. Trumped-up cases do not withstand fair and rigorous trial, and should perforce cease at once,” said the PILC. – Rappler.com
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