Lawyers of farmers sued for direct assault in Kidapawan seek dismissal of charges

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/02 May) — Lawyers of the 76 farmers who were accused of direct assault upon persons of authority in connection with the bloody dispersal of protesters in the city last April 1 on Monday filed a motion to dismiss the case for “lack of probable cause”.

The case was lodged at the Kidapawan Municipal Trial Court under Judge Rebecca Elena B. de Leon.

In her manifestation, Public Attorneys Office (PAO) chief Persida Acosta, who represented the farmers, argued that the charges must be dismissed since there was no probable cause to hold the accused criminally liable.

“Most of the farmers were not even taken during the commission of the alleged crime, or immediately after the commission of the crime. Most of them are in their residences…

it is not a crime to ask for food, it is not a crime to voice out what’s inside your heart,” she said.

Orlando Daño, PAO district attorney questioned the legality of the manner the farmers were arrested.

“Some of them, most especially the women were taken from their houses and made to believe that they would be brought to safer place, served with food, and be given medical check up,” he said.

Acosta said the information against the farmers should be quashed “because they are just exercising their freedom of expression and the events, injuries, and casualties were not expected by anyone among the parties.”

She added it was highly impossible for three pregnant women and a 78-year old grandmother who were those among freed on bail last month to commit direct assault against police officers.

“This case should be settled and quashed by the court because our courts are courts not only of law but also of justice and equity. The farmers were not violent, they were just asking for food, so they should not be incarcerated or charged,” she said.

She said the court must dismiss the case to prevent further human rights violations.

She emphasized that the court should be an instrument of peace and equity, otherwise chaos and continuous demonstrations will continue all over Mindanao “with respect to the rights of the farmers.”

“The farmers are being caught by the instance because of the poverty, need for rice, for food and not guns, not bullets. These farmers should be rewarded with a sack of rice, not guns, not bullets, or even incarceration,” she said.

Elisa D. Candiban, 22, of Magpet in North Cotabato, was among the three pregnant women who were arrested after being charged with direct assault.

She recalled that she was at a sari-sari store near the protest site with husband Christopher, 24, that morning of April 1 when the violent dispersal erupted.

Afraid they might be caught in the commotion, she and her husband ran to the back of the store to hide in one of the houses.

Shortly after the dispersal, she said a man who claimed to be a school teacher from President Roxas talked to them and assured them of food, medical assistance, and transport back to their home.

She added four police officers told them there was nothing to fear, as they would just be taken for a medical checkup.

“I was brought to Kidapawan City Hospital last April 1 after I complained of abdominal pain but even there I had not received any medical checkup until I left in the evening,” she recalled.

She said they were taken to the Kidapawan Convention Center where they stayed for seven days before they were detained at the Cotabato Provincial Jail in Brgy. Amas for nine days.

She claimed that she underwent medical checkup only once while she was in detention.

Some 4,000 farmers barricaded a portion of the Cotabato-Davao highway in Kidapawan late in March this year to demand rice assistance from the provincial government.

After negotiations with local officials failed anti-riot police came to break up the barricade last April 1.

Three farmers were killed in the dispersal and scores of others were wounded. Some policemen were also hurt. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)