NTF-ELCAC, NCIP welcome dismissal of terror raps vs. 2 Aetas
By Lade Jean Kabagani / Philippine News Agency
MANILA — The National Task Force to End Local Communist and Armed conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) welcomed the dismissal by the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 74 of the Anti-Terrorism Case filed against Japer Gurung and Junior Ramos of the Aeta indigenous community in Zambales.
A joint statement released on June 17, the NTF-ELCAC and NCIP said the court's decision to drop the charges against the two Aetas is a manifestation that the justice system in the country is functioning fairly.
"The decision has clearly shown that our justice system works, hears, and decides cases fairly, without fear or favor," the statement read.
The notice, dated July 15, issued by the Regional Trial Court branch of Olongapo City, stated that the two accused "were not proved to be perpetrators of terrorism" under Section 4 of Republic Act No. 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
"The invalidity of an arrest leads to several consequences, one of which is any search incident to the arrest becomes invalid thus rendering the evidence acquired constitutionally inadmissible," it added.
Protecting IPs vs. exploitation
The NTF-ELCAC and the NCIP vowed to protect the indigenous peoples (IP) community against the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) and its front organizations.
"Both NTF-ELCAC and NCIP ceaselessly worked together to remove our IP brothers from the exploitative clutches of the CPP-NPA-NDF including their front organizations, like Karapatan, so that their case will the justly heard under our system of laws," the joint statement read.
Communist groups, it added, had been using Gurung and Ramos' case to topple the anti-terrorism law.
"These groups had been exploiting this case and has used it to move for the invalidation of the Anti-Terrorism Law of 2020, which our ICCs/IPs had sought and fully supported for their protection against the CPP/NPA presence within their lands. The case before the Supreme Court was later found to be filed without the consent of the Japer and Junior," it said.
Last February, the two Aetas disclosed that they were forced to sign the 42-page petition against the anti-terror law because of the persistence of the National Union of People's Lawyers (NUPL), allegedly linked to the CPP-NPA-NDF.
The NUPL earlier claimed it has been representing Gurung and Ramos since September last year.
The two Aetas, however, decided to reject NUPL's legal assistance and asked the help of the Public Attorney’s Office and the NCIP.
By then, the NTF-ELCAC and the NCIP assured Gurung and Ramos, they will be provided with the necessary legal assistance during the court's trials.
"We wish to thank our security forces and our agencies, especially the Public Attorney’s Office, for extending their consideration as well as tremendous assistance and support since the trial began," the statement said.
"We are one with our Aeta brothers and their families, in their quest for justice, and we will be with them as they walk free and return to their families and ancestral land," they added.
The government, through the NTF-ELCAC, is intensifying its fight against communist terrorist groups and its front organizations to end the 52-year old armed conflict.
Signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte in December 2018, Executive Order 70 created the NTF-ELCAC that institutionalizes a whole-of-nation approach in obtaining exclusive and sustainable peace, giving the government an effective solution against communist terrorists.
Duterte earlier acknowledged the efforts of the security forces to dismantle the remaining guerrilla fronts of the CPP-NPA-NDF.
He hoped the CTG guerilla fronts would be wiped out by the end of his term.
The CPP-NPA-NDF is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)