V​oid ​charges Vs Kidapawan farmers​, police asked

Apr. 21, 2016
(Ace R. Morandante/davaotoday.com file photo)

(Ace R. Morandante/davaotoday.com file photo)

DAVAO CITY –The chief of the government’s public attorneys’ office has asked the police to drop the charges against farmers who mounted a highway barricade in Kidapawan City late last month.

​PAO Chief Persida Rueda-Acosta told the ​Senate hearing Wednesday that “since the farmers were temporarily released on bail last Saturday, the farmers are afraid of going home due to fear of being arrested again​”​.

​Acosta said that all of the release orders were issued by the judge, last April 14-16, stating that “officers of the law shou​ld be refrain(ed) from arresting them or if they were arrested to release them immediately from custody.”

Detained farmers were released ​in groups starting April 14, Thursday last week. Ten detainees were released that day followed by 65 on April 15, and the last two were released on April 16, Saturday.

​​​​As the hearing was going​ on​, ​Atty. Rey Cortez of the National Union of People’s Lawyers disclosed of a report from community leaders in Arakan who reported that “police forces are in their community looking for the three farmers namely Majove Buguat, Lolita Porras, and Ederlyn Daelto.”

The three farmers were ​brought out from the sanctuary by the PAO last April 18, Monday.

But the police, during the hearing, said that “there is no order to re-arrest the freed farmers and there is no order to harass anybody.”

Last Thursday, the lawyers, in behalf of the farmers, already filed a motion to quash the information for direct assault but it was already denied by the court.

The lawyer​s said ​that their contention is, “that the court has no jurisdiction over the person of the farmers because of the illegality of the arres​t​.” ​

They ​​a​dd​ed​ that, “the method of arrest was not in the rules of court citing that ‘making arrest without a warrant, the police officer should inform the person to be arrested.”

“There are information and allegation that this was done by the arresting officers,” Acosta said.

Acosta, citing Eugenio vs People of the Philippines 2008 case said that, “any irregularity attending the arrest of an accused, depriving the trial court of jurisdiction over the person of the accused, should be raised in a motion to quash.”

Illegal arrest

Senator Aquilino Pimentel, chair of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, asked the PAO chief if there are testimonies from the victims ​that would point out that farmers were already told that they were charged with direct assault before they were arrested and brought to the Kidapawan gym prior to the dispersal.

“There are stories during the ​S​enate hearing in Davao, there were invitations for (farmers) to go home, be fed, and be brought home. Some bit the invitation. After that they were brought to the gym, before the dispersal, was that established on your interviews?” Pimentel asked.

Acosta said that there are allegations from farmers ​that they ​were told to be fed and they never thought that there will be a case waiting for them.

“According on the timeline (presented by the lawyers group), they were already in police custody before the outbreak of the violence, how could they be part of direct assault?” Pimentel asked.

Acosta said, “that’s right Mr. Chair, and some of them were already on their houses and some were at the church compound when they​ ​were picked up and arrested.”

Provincial Director of Philippine National Police in North Cotabato Police Supt Alexander Tagum clarified the allegation of detaining farmers prior to the dispersal on April 1.

“I would like to correct that, we did not arrest anyone prior to the operation, we only arrested after the violent dispersal. There were those already brought to their homes,” Tagum said.

Tagum also said that the order to dispersed the farmers to clear the highway came from Cotabato Governor Emmylou Mendoza, who chaired the provincial crisis management committee.

The farmers occupied the national highway for days demanding for rice aid and government intervention to help them cope with the effects of severe drought. (davaotoday.com)

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