THE OLONGAPO City court has dismissed the first recorded case relating to the new anti-terrorism law, filed against Japer T. Gurung and Junior U. Ramos, two farmers belonging to the indigenous Aeta community.
The court said the prosecution failed to prove the identities of the accused as perpetrators of the crime of violation of Section 4 of Republic Act No. 11479 or the Anti-Terror Law.
A release order was also issued for Messrs. Gurung and Ramos.
“The inconsistencies of the soldiers on the presence of the accused at the crime scene and the profiling of the accused, and the presence of the danger signal in their identification of the accused cast doubt on their testimonies that accused were the perpetrators of the crime,” the court said in its decision dated July 15 and released to reporters on Monday.
The court explained that the soldiers may have “misidentified” the two as “both are Aetas who share with other Aetas common physical characteristics of dark skin tones, short statures and curly hair,” and because they only saw the two “for the first time on the day the gunfight happened.”
It further said there were multiple inconsistencies with the sworn statements and testimonies of the two soldiers who stood as witnesses for the military.
The court also said that the two farmers were unlawfully arrested, which invalidates the warrantless search on them.
As such, the court said their cases for alleged violation of the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act and for illegal or unlawful possession of firearms are also dismissed.
Messrs. Gurung and Ramos were accused of being members of the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, which has been tagged by the government as a terrorist organization.
The two were arrested by the military on Aug. 21, 2020 and have since been detained at the Olongapo City Jail.
In a joint statement on Monday, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples welcomed the dismissal of the case, saying the decision clearly shows “that our Justice system works, hears and decides cases fairly, without fear or favor.”
NTF ELCAC spokesperson Marlon P. Bosantog also told reporters that they “have no plan at this point” to pursue counter charges against the military. — Bianca Angelica D. Anago