DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/20 April) – The chief of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) has asked the police to drop the cases against 81 persons, mostly farmers, who were charged with “direct assault upon an agent of a person in authority” following the violent dispersal of a three-day barricade in Kidapawan City on April 1.
PAO chief Persida Acosta told the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights Wednesday in Manila that they have asked the court to quash the information claiming the arrest was illegal because those who were arrested were not informed “of his authority and the casuse of the arrest.”
Acosta said “super maximum tolerance” should have been employed on the hungry farmers, not violence. “Hindi po karahasan kundi pag-unawa ng kapulisan” (not violence from the police but understanding), she added.
Sixty-year old farmer Dionisio Alagos of Arakan town, is one of seven senior citizens charged, along with 74 other farmers with “direct assault” in the aftermath of the April 1 violent dispersal in Kidapawan City. He was freed on bail on April 15 but he and majority of those released on bail have yet to return home. They are presently staying in an organic farm owned by the Diocese of Kidapawan pending completion of their judicial affidavits. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO
Some 5,000 farmers and members of militant groups set up the barricade along a portion ot the Davao –Cotabato national highway in Kidapawan City demanding, among others, the release of at least 15, 000 sacks of rice for drought-stricken farmers in seven towns and one city. North Cotabato has 17 towns and one city.
Addressing the police present at the hearing, she made a personal appeal: “Palayain na po natin ang mga farmers, palayain na po natin sila” (Let’s free the farrmers, let’s set them free), Acosta said.
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, chair of the Senate Committee asked if what she meant by “palayain” was “walang kaso” (no case). Acosta replied, “wala na pong kaso” (no more case) because while all the accused have been freed on bail, most of them have not returned home because of fear they would be arrested again.
The 81 accused include a 78-year old grandmother and six other senior citizens, and three pregnant women. Two churchworkers from Arakan, one of them a nurse, were also arrested while on their way to the Spottswood Methodist Mission Center to assist parishioners after the dispersal.
Of the 81, one turned out to be a minor and turned over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development, three posted bail of P12,000 on April 8, leaving only 77 still detained as of April 11, when the motion to reduce bail to P2,000 was heard.
FREE THE FARMERS. The chief of the Public Attorneys Office, Persida Acosta, ahs appealed to the police to “set free the farrmers” by dropping the charges against the 81 who were charged with “direct assault” in the aftermath of the April 1 violent dispersal in Kidapawan City. Freed on bail, farmers and some members of their families are presently staying in an organic farm owned by the Diocese of Kidapawan pending completion of their judicial affidavits. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO
Judge Rebecca Elena de Leon reduced the bail bond to P6,000 on April 13, without prejudice to further lowering it. The amount was raised with the help of celebrities. On April 14, 10 of the detainees were released from jail, followed by 65 on April 15 and the last two on April 16.
Acosta, who went to Kidapawan on April 18, had copies of the release orders distributed to each of the accused who were staying at the Diocese of Kidapawan’s Social Action Organic Farming Center in Balindog.
Fr. Peter Geremia, assistant parish priest of Arakan told MindaNews on Tuesday that the farmers will likely return home this weekend after the completion of their affidavits. He said lawyer Joel Mahinay of the Union of Peoples Lawyers in Mindanao will be arriving from Davao to complete the affidavits of the accused “to prove illegal arrest and also to prepare counter charges.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)