activist groups in PH

3 activists are latest to win cases of feared anti-terror law

Jairo Bolledo

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3 activists are latest to win cases of feared anti-terror law
The activists' victory come two years after an Olongapo court junked the first known anti-terror law case filed in 2021 against Aetas

MANILA, Philippines — Three activists and other progressive individuals have secured victory against the anti-terror law complaints filed against them.

In two joint resolutions dated November 20, Associate City Prosecutor Christian Castro of the prosecutor’s office in Santa Rosa City in Laguna junked the complaint filed against Hailey Pecayo and other progressive individuals over alleged violation of section 4(a) and 4(d) of Republic Act (RA) No. 11479 or the anti-terror law, section(c)(25)(IV) of RA No. 9851 or the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against Humanity, and over attempted murder.

Pecayo is a human rights worker and the spokesperson of Tanggol Batanggan.

Corporal Ivan Neil Ogatis and Sergeant Jean Claude Bajaro of the 59th Infantry Battalion (IB) of the Philippine Army are the named complainants. The complaints stemmed from the alleged armed encounter between soldiers and alleged members of the New Peoples’ Army on July 18, 2022, in Sitio Amatong, Barangay Ginhawa, Taysan, Batangas.

Pecayo, in a statement on Thursday, November 23, said her “sweet victory” was the fruit of her tireless fight for justice since she was slapped with what she called trumped-up charges: “Paunang tagumpay ito, hindi lang sa akin kundi para sa napakarami pang hindi nababalitang mga pangalan, dahil sila ang lubhang dinadaganan ng takot ng 59th IB sa Batangas.”

(This is an initial victory, not only for me, but for many other unnamed victims because they experience the worst intimidation from the 59th IB in Batangas.)

In junking the complaints, the prosecutor said there was not enough evidence to pursue the complaints against Pecayo and others. The prosecutor said the complainants and the witnesses failed to “correctly identify” the respondents as alleged perpetrators in the crimes they were accused of.

The prosecutor also noted that the progress report of the incident failed to identify the respondents, as well as the fact that the firefight happened in a forested area. The prosecutor added that the complainant and witnesses were 10 to 15 meters away from the persons shooting them.

Aside from this, the Laguna prosecutor also said that the affidavits of four witnesses alleging that they were former members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples’ Army-National Democratic Front “hold no water under the circumstances.”

“Too much emphasis on names was placed by the complainant and his witnesses in identifying the alleged wrongdoers in these cases. It is underscored that familiarity with the physical features, particularly those of the face, is actually the best way to identify the person,” the prosecutor explained.

In another resolution made public on Thursday, Associate City Prosecutor Kristoffer Ryan Tayhopon also junked the anti-terror law complaint against Jasmin Rubia, secretary general of Mothers and Children for the Protection of Human Rights, and Kenneth Rementilla, Anakbayan Southern Tagalog coordinator, for lack of probable cause. The complaint stemmed from alleged violation of section 12 of the anti-terror law.

“In the instant case, while it may appear based on the documents submitted that the respondents indeed travelled with Hailey Pecayo in going to the wake of Kyllene Casao, there is still no plausible evidence that they provided ‘material support’ to a terrorist as defined by the law to be liable for violation of Section 12 of RA 11479,” the resolution read.

3 activists are latest to win cases of feared anti-terror law

“Here, the complaint did not provide any proof that the alleged ‘organized transportation’ was indeed organized and provided by the respondents personally themselves,” it added.

The three activists’ victory came two years after two Aetas secured legal victory in 2021. The Olongapo Regional Trial Court junked the first known anti-terror law case against Aetas Japer Gurung and Junior Ramos, saying that it was a case of mistaken identities.

Like Pecayo, the Aetas were accused of being NPA members and were also charged for alleged violation of anti-terror law’s section 4. But the court sided with the Aetas, saying the witnesses against them made “blatant inconsistencies.” — Rappler.com

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.