“If these are truly the handiwork of the reconstituted IACLA as some quarters have alleged, then this body requires reexamination as did its predecessor, the Interagency Legal Action Group under Arroyo, which was abolished upon the recommendation of the United Nations.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA — The fight is not over for the Makabayan 4, whose case was dismissed by Palayan Regional Trial Court Acting Presiding Judge Trese Wenceslao, as many of activists and progressive leaders are still facing trumped-up charges under the Duterte administration.
For the first time today, Aug. 14 former Bayan Muna Representatives Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casiño, former Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano and National Anti-Poverty Commission Lead Convenor Liza Maza faced the media in a press conference after seeking refuge for 20 days.
Casino said there are at least 1,000 victims of trumped-up charges, more than 700 of them under the Duterte administration. There have been 129 cases filed under the Interagency Committee on Legal Action (IACLA). “There is an escalation of filing of trumped-up charges against critics of the government,” said Casino.
The most recent is the case of the the couple who was arrested in Balagtas, Bulacan on Aug. 11, said Casino.The couple, Rowena and Oliver Rosales, are former officers and organizers of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE). A case of illegal possession of firearms and explosives was filed against them said Casino.
“While we celebrate today the dismissal of our case and quashing of the warrant of arrest, let us also remember that there are still many activists who are facing the same trumped-up charges,” he said.
‘Justice is served’
“Justice is served, as it should have been a decade ago,” said Maza adding that the case was based on “purely fabricated charges levelled against critics of the former Gloria Macapagal Arroyo administration.”
Maza also criticized the creation of IACLA under Duterte that is being used to file false charges against persons who dissent against the government. She expressed grave concern over the escalation of such charges filed against legal activists.
“If these are truly the handiwork of the reconstituted IACLA as some quarters have alleged, then this body requires reexamination as did its predecessor, the Interagency Legal Action Group under Arroyo, which was abolished upon the recommendation of the United Nations,” said Maza.
For Ocampo, the campaign for justice was a success. He said it shows that the people are aware that the same justice system exists from the previous governments up to the present. “That the government, instead of protecting the people are the ones who persecute and punishes those who assert for the people’s rights, most especially the poor,” Ocampo said in Filipino adding that he is proud of his partylist, Bayan Muna.
Criminalization of political offense
For the years of his involvement in the people’s movement, the government has charged Ocampo with different cases only to make him stop from opposing the government. Cases filed against him included rebellion and criminal charges like kidnapping, murder and illegal possession of fire arms.
“In my personal experience, I have nine cases since the administration of the late President Cory Aquino,” said Ocampo. But all these cases were dismissed except for the multiple murder charge in Hilongos, Leyte, he said. The tenth case is his inclusion in the Department of Justice’s proscription list together with 600 more activists and individuals. But he along with three others are already proclaimed as non-parties to the case filed by the DOJ.
“I am not a terrorist. I am a journalist and an activist,” said Ocampo.
Mariano also said the government should stop criminalizing political offenses.
“Stop filing criminal charges against those who fight for genuine agrarian reform and other activists who fight for the rights of the people,” he said adding that such is an injustice.
They thanked all supporters who did not waver in the campaign to defend the Makabayan 4 as well as their families and counsels from the Public Interest Law Center (PILC). They also acknowledged Judge Wenceslao for upholding the truth.
Meanwhile, lawyer Neri Colmenares of the National Union of People’s Lawyers said this case is not only about the Makabayan 4, but a case of political persecution against people who dissent against the government.
He added that the case in Palayan have other accused whose cases are not yet dismissed.
“The fight is not over because there are still political prisoners languishing in jail and many others who have cases filed against them” he said.