DAVAO DEL NORTE, Philippines—After seven years of languishing inside the prison facility, Eddie Cruz, a Dumagat political prisoner was finally freed after a local court acquitted him from the “trumped-up charges” filed against him, a human rights group said.
Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay, in a statement on Saturday, said that Cruz was criminally charged of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
On October 6, Judge Lily Villareal Biton of Regional Trial Court Branch 77 in San Mateo, Rizal penned a decision acquitting Cruz from the charges filed against him after the prosecution failed to establish guilt beyond reasonable doubt on his case. The decision came after 7 years.
“The Philippines is not only known for having one of the slowest internet connections in the world; we are also known for having one of the slowest justice system, especially for those who are poor and oppressed,” Palabay said.
Cruz worked as a farmer and occasionally served as a tour guide in Rizal. Palabay, however, said Cruz was illegally arrested and reportedly tortured by the military belonging to the Army’s 16th Infantry Battalion on June 11, 2010.
Palabay added that Cruz was “incommunicado” to his parents Ligaya and Cresencio. He was also denied his right to counsel, as he was only allowed to see a lawyer in August 2010, almost two months after his arrest.
“From the time of his arrest until September 2010, the military had custody of Cruz, instead of immediately turning him over to a civilian detention facility,” she said.
The spokesperson of the human rights group noted that like Cruz’s experience, a total of 430 political prisoners across the country also experienced “torture and injustice” from the hands of government forces.
“A nationwide martial law will further legitimize these cruel and inhuman practices. We should unceasingly resist against these fascist attacks against the Filipino people,” Palabay said.
While the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) welcomes the court’s decision, it lamented, however, that for seven years, the “snail-paced justice system” has failed Cruz.
Atty. Ephraim Cortez, NUPL secretary-general said President Rodrigo Duterte “has the legal and moral obligation” to release all political prisoners unconditionally.
“We challenge the President to heed this duty,” he added.(davaotoday.com)