VIGAN CITY, Ilocos Sur (Sept. 24) — For the freed Ilocos peasant leaders, their struggle is far from over.
Acquitted recently of murder and other charges in relation to the assault of a police station in Sta. Lucia, Ilocos Sur, Julian Daoa, Leonardo Sabalo and Rogelio Bilog, all of the Solidarity of Peasants against Exploitation (STOP Exploitation) are set to file counter-charges with various human rights bodies against police and military forces for fabricating cases against them.
Branch 71 Regional Trial Court Judge Policarpio Martinez dismissed the murder, robbery and arson charges against the three for lack of evidence. His three-page decision mentioned that the witnesses failed to identify the three.
Daoa, Sabalo and Bilog with their legal counsel are preparing to file charges at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the Joint Monitoring Committee of the GRP-NDF peace panels sometime this October.
Bilog said the charges put their lives at risk. “We are only doing what is right for the people, we fight for the rights of peasants for genuine land reform, yet the Arroyo government through its police and military forces fabricate cases against us to terrorize the people,” he asserted.
“There were even rumors that we have been convicted for rape and sentenced to forty years in jail,” Sabalo added.
Bilog added that now that they are freed, they would continue to arouse, organize, and mobilize more peasants to thwart the efforts of the GMA administration in persecuting political activists.
Their two-month detention at the Ilocos Sur Provincial Jail, according to Sabalo, affected their families.
“Our families have been humiliated and we were publicly condemned for the crimes we did not commit,” said Sabalo, who when jailed left his 6-month pregnant wife and five year old son.
Daoa, on the other hand, left his wife and four year old son while Bilog left his wife and his nine year old and 7-year old sons respectively.
According to STOP Exploitation Secretary-general Zaldy Alfiler, the dismissal of the charges filed against Daoa, Sabalo, and Bilog is the third of the fabricated cases dismissed this year.
“The fascist GMA regime has once again failed in its legal offensives to crack down on progressive organizations,” Alfiler stressed.
Alfiler referred to the cases of Virgilio Tumbaga (who was accused of murdering a soldier) and UCCP Pastor Francisco Bunuan (accused of killing Conrado Balweg) that were similarly dismissed due to insufficient evidence. # Rod Tajon for NORDIS