ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME
Urgent Appeal Update: AHRC-UAU-025-2013
27 August 2013
[RE: AHRC-UAU-010-2013: PHILIPPINES : Court records, military asset and military documents were used as evidence to affirm fabrication of charges on activists]
PHILIPPINES : Arrest order on activists laid with fabricated charges of murder cancelled
ISSUES: Human rights defenders; administration of justice; fabrication of charges
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) writes to inform you that one of the two fabricated complaints of murder laid on human rights activists has been cancelled by the court. The court held that the victims were denied due process when they were indicted in court without their knowledge and were not given an opportunity to respond to the allegations.
UPDATED INFORMATION: (Based on documentation by Defend Job Philippines )
On December 19, 2012, we first reported that Roy Velez, regional chairperson of the KMU, and Amelita Gamara, of Defend Job Philippines, had been laid with fabricated murder charges for supposedly attacking a military camp in Barangay Maot, Labo, Camarines Norte that killed four soldiers on April 29, 2012. For details please see: AHRC-UAU-036-2012.
In addition to this case, Roy and Amelita; and other activists, namely Randy Vargas, Raul Camposano and Rene Abiva, were also charged with murder for supposedly attacking a convoy of soldiers in an attack on April 25, 2012 that killed ten soldiers and a civilian in Barangay Gumbang, Tinoc, Ifugao.
Those killed were: Captain Seigfred Kapilas, Staff Sergeant (SSg) Domingo Torres, Corporal (Cpl.) Esmael Lazaro, Private First Classes (Pfc.) Villamor Sannadan, Jr., Kennedy Ragutero, Jojo Dawaron, Crismar David, Privates (Pvt.) Ferdinand Nalliw, Jun Viloria, Ronald Lorenzo, and Ronel Salud; and Jaimelita Labog, a civilian.
The charges were filed based on the testimonies of Captain Robert Belandres, commissioned officer of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Pfc Ruben Salingbay, an intelligence officer of the AFP. However, neither Capt. Belandres nor Salingbay’s testimonies clearly identified the victims as the ones that carried out the ambush.
In Belandres’ testimony, he indicated that it was not him but the “eyewitness to the said incident that were able to identify some of the perpetrators of the ambush (para 6)”. In Salingbay’s testimony, he also indicated that the identities of the perpetrators were based on their “previous records in different police and military units that we are studying as part of being an intelligence operative (para 10)”.
After they were indicted, Roy, Amelita, Randy, Raul and Rene filed a petition in court for the dismissal of the charges against them. They argued that they were not informed of the charges and they did not receive subpoenas for the preliminary investigation. Furthermore their address was not known in the information before they were indicted for murder.
On July 26, 2013, Romeo Habbiling, presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 14, Lagawe, Ifugao, issued an order partly in favor of the victims’ appeal to recall the arrest orders issued on them. The order, the copy of which was received recently, granted the petition to cancel/recall the arrest order:
“The court finds merit on the prayer of accused-movants Roy Velez, Amelita Gamara (Bravante), Randy Vegas and Raul Camposano for the conduct of a preliminary investigation/reinvestigation as well as the recall of the Warrant of Arrest. The Information Sheet indeed indicated that their addresses were unknown, hence, surely no subpoena was issued to them by the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office.
Needless to mention, the right to preliminary investigation is a substantive right. It forms part of due process in our criminal justice system. It is jealously protected by our laws”
The court’s order, however, does not cover the remaining accused whose names are still included in the arrest orders.
In this case, the victims were supposed to have carried out attacks on the soldiers in two separate locations. First, in Tinoc, Ifugao in the northern part of the Philippines and second, in Camarines Norte near the central part of the Philippines . These places are far from each other requiring days of travel by land.
Considering the distance of these places, it would be physically impossible, notably for a weak and ailing person like Amelita, to have taken part in these ambuscades.
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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