Activists in Bicol trumped-up charges seek case dismissal

IN separate motions filed last Jan. 24, four activists of militant groups slapped with trumped-up charges before the Regional Trial Court in Labo, Camarines Norte have taken the offensive by filing a motion seeking to quash or to dismiss the information against them, or for the trial court to order the conduct of a preliminary investigation into their cases.

Roy Velez, Amelita Gamara, Raul Camposano and Randy Vegas, who are among the 37 persons charged with five counts of murder in relation to an assault allegedly conducted by members of the New People’s Army (NPA) against military personnel in the Bicol region in April 29, 2012, claimed that the charges against them were fabricated and that there was no proper preliminary investigation conducted into their cases.

According to the four accused, the sole eyewitness in the case gave authorities incorrect addresses attributed to them so they would not be able to receive the subpoena sent to them for the preliminary investigation. As a result, they were not aware of any preliminary investigation, were not able to submit their evidence, and became aware of the charges only when warrants of arrest were already issued against them.

The four accused therefore asked the trial court to dismiss the case against them because their rights to due process have been grossly violated. They asked the court to immediately order the conduct of a preliminary investigation, if it does not dismiss the case against them.

All four accused maintained that they are social activists and not members of the NPA. Velez is the chairman of the Kilusang Mayo Uno-National Capital Region while Gamara is the chapter’s deputy secretary-general. Velez was also a nominee of Anakpawis Partylist in last elections while Gamara was an area coordinator of AkapBata Partylist.

Camposano and Vegas, on the other hand, are long-time organizers of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees or Courage, an organization of employees in the government sector. They also acted as area coordinators for Courage Partylist in the previous election, and Camposano even served as court sheriff in Makati before joining Courage.

“The practice of filing fabricated charges against labor and human rights activists to demonize them and prevent them from carrying out their tasks is increasing under the Aquino administration,” commented Atty. Remigio Saladero Jr., one of the lawyers for the four accused and legal counsel of the KMU.

“This was rampant during the Arroyo administration and appears to have been adopted starting last year by the Aquino government. We call on Pres. Aquino to correct this abuse of the judicial or legal process in line with his much-vaunted promise of ‘tuwid na daan’,” said the lawyer.

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