They voluntary submitted themselves to the local court in the hope of clearing their names. However, instead of being cleared in a September 2003 raid and burning of an Ilocos Sur police station, they were thrown behind bars.
BY ROD TAJON
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VII, No. 24, July 22-28, 2007
CANDON CITY, Ilocos Sur (347 kms north of Manila) – They voluntary submitted themselves to the local court in the hope of clearing their names. However, instead of being cleared in a September 2003 raid and burning of an Ilocos Sur police station, they were thrown behind bars.
All detained after voluntarily showing up are Solidarity of Peasants against Exploitation (Stop Exploitation) chairman emeritus Julian Daoa, who is also the current secretary-general of Bagong Alyansang makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance)-Ilocos; the group’s vice chairperson, Leonardo Sabalo; and Rodrigo Vilog, a local leader of the said organization.
They appeared before Branches 23 and 71 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Candon City to clear their names from the accusations of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police (PNP)-Ilocos Sur.
Daoa, Sabalo and Vilog were implicated in the raid of the Sta. Lucia, Ilocos Sur police station, which was carried out by a unit of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA). The raid led to the burning of the Sta. Lucia, Ilocos Sur Municipal Police Station. Two police officers were killed in the fighting that ensued.
The three peasant leaders and several John Does were charged with two counts of murder, arson, robbery, multiple serious physical injuries and direct assault upon persons in authority in relation to the raid. Police claimed they are members of the CPP-NPA’s Alfredo Cesar Command (ACC), which operates in the Ilocos region.
In 2003, the ACC claimed responsibility over the raid and denied the peasant leaders’ connection to the NPA.
Daoa, Sabalo and Vilog are presently detained at the Ilocos Sur Provincial Jail.
Fear for safety
They were forced to come out and try to clear their names because of fear for their and their families’ safety. “We were forced to leave our families for our safety,” Vilog said.
Daoa, Vilog and Sabalo all left their wives and children no older than eight years old. In Sabalo’s case, his wife is six months pregnant.
Stop Exploitation secretary-general Zaldy Alfiler explained that the three peasant leaders had been receiving death threats since 2003.
Alfiler added that the peasant leaders went to court to protect themselves from what he described as “imminent danger.” He said the three have continuously received death threats since 2003.
Alfiler said Daoa has been receiving death threats in his cellular phone. He added that on Nov. 30, 2005, a group of unidentified men nearly broke into Daoa’s compound, but were caught by the barangay police. He said Daoa also noticed an unidentified man tailing him while he was on his way to the Bayan-Ilocos office in 2006.
Cherry, Daoa’s wife, said when her husband was around she would always notice unidentified men in their vicinity. One of the men, she disclosed, was taking pictures of the relatives and supporters of the three peasant leaders.
A Stop Exploitation report, meanwhile, shows that on Jan.19, 2007 at around 4:00 a.m., members of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) searched Sabalo’s house looking for him and his brother, because they were allegedly hiding a gun. The same report said the CIDG forces insisted on getting a picture of Sabalo and his brother but the family refused. Like Daoa, Sabalo has been receiving threats over his cellular phone.
A month after the police station raid in 2003, Barangay Captain Ananias Halican was shot dead by an unidentified assailant a few meters from his house. Halican is also a member of Stop Exploitation and was also charged by the CIDG.
No summons received
Daoa disclosed that they never received summons from the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor. “We learned of our charges from media reports in 2003,” he said.
The subpoena, according to Daoa, was sent to the wrong address.
In 2006, Branches 23 and 71 of the Candon City RTC under Judges Gabino Balbin Jr. and Policarpio Martinez respectively issued warrants of arrest for the above-mentioned cases – allowing no bail for the cases of murder and arson.
Stop Exploitation, an affiliate of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Philippine Peasant Movement), views the accusations as “baseless” and “purely fabricated,” and stated these are part of the Arroyo administration’s efforts to “trample” political dissent and its critics.
“They are innocent,” said Cherry Daoa who now takes care of their three-year-old son alone. “They have always been good citizens in their communities and served as role models to their barrio mates.”
“How could they (police) accuse them of crimes they never committed?” she lamented.
Zaldy Alfiler, secretary-general of Stop Exploitation, said the three never had any bad record. He showed certifications from their communities which, he said, could prove their innocence.
In Barangay Marozo, Narvacan, Ilocos Sur, the barrio folk conducted a signature campaign to protest Sabalo’s implication in the cases.
The KMP also certified that Daoa, Sabalo and Vilog are their members.
Bayan-Ilocos spokesperson Albert Lagrimas said criminalizing political dissent only meant desperation for the Arroyo government to “trample” upon the rights of her critics. He noted that what happened to the three leaders was the result of the national-security plan Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL or Operation Guard Freedom) which started in 2002.
“Leaders and organizers are killed, abducted or put behind bars to quell the people’s movement from exposing (the Arroyo administration’s) fascist character,” Lagrimas added.
Alfiler meanwhile added that the implementation of the Human Security Act of 2007 (HSA), also known as the Anti-Terror Law, might “maliciously” label political activists as “terrorists” – pointing out that the law’s definition of terrorism is vague.
“More activists and critics of this fascist regime will be put behind bars because of the anti-people provisions of the law,” he added.
However, “despite what happened to the leaders, the people shall remain vigilant in asserting their rights,” Lagrimas also said. “This ruthless regime launches legal offensives to the people’s movement to instill fear to the people but (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s) dirty tricks will never succeed for the people will continue to isolate the GMA regime until it is toppled.”
Daoa, Sabalo and Vilog had earlier filed complaints at the Joint Monitoring Committee of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). They had also shared their situation at a recent dialogue with the United Methodist Church (UMC)’s California-Nevada Conference. Northern Dispatch / Posted by(Bulatlat.com)