CIDG retracts rebellion charges vs. ?Davao 8? militants

In exchange, the militant leaders will drop administrative charges against Police Officer Franco Duca and Chief Insp. Rex Rodriguez at the Peoples' Law Enforcement Board in an amicable settlement considered by the militants as “a blow to the government's campaign tagging the progressive organizations as ‘communist fronts’.”


Duca and Rodriguez are personnel of the Criminal Investigation and Detention Group (CIDG) who executed an affidavit in March linking the militant leaders to the rebellion and inciting to sedition charges filed against Bayan Muna Rep. Joel Virador.


Named in the affidavit were Ariel Casilao (Bayan), Luz Ilagan (Gabriela), Jeppie Ramada (Bayan Muna), Omar Bantayan (Kilusang Mayo Uno), Tonying Flores (Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas), Editha Duterte (Kadamay), Corazon Espinosa (Samakana), and Lorie Ann Cascaro (AnakBayan youth sector).


The eight were included as secondary respondents in the rebellion charge against Virador and four other militant leaders now called the "Batasan 5" during the height of the declaration of national emergency in February last year with the issuance of Presidential Declaration 1017.


The two claimed that on Feb. 24 Virador, along with the eight, conducted a march protest and conspired to topple the Arroyo government. Mayor Rodrigo Duterte spoke in that protest rally.


The militants gave two conditions in the amicable settlement: issue a public apology and strike off the affidavit from the DOJ's records.


In a press conference Monday, Casilao said the two retracted their affidavit and apologized to the respondents on Jan. 26. But the apology and retraction statement were addressed to the respondents, except Ilagan and Bantayan.


Casilao said the two, who have different lawyers, filed their complaints with PLEB on a later date. He said the officers have manifested that separate retraction and apology will be executed for Ilagan and Bantayan.


Rodriguez and Duca, in their statement furnished to reporters by Casilao, said they regretted causing inconvenience in filing the affidavit on March 7.


They said they executed the affidavit "with absolutely no malice" but "purely in the lawful performance of our duties, and upon a sincere and good faith belief that we had seen the events in the best of our recollection.”


They said they realized that "human memory and perception have limits, including our capacity to translate into precise words what we had actually seen". The two officers then said their narration of details, as well as the respondents' possible involvement in the mass actions of Feb. 24, "may be plausibly inaccurate".


The two apologized for their "imperfections" and attested that no criminal complaint has been filed in relation to the affidavit.


Casilao said the retraction, the first in the group's legal battle against so-called harassments nationwide, is a blow to the government's tagging of the progressive organizations as "communist fronts".


He said the move is a vindication for the militant leaders who cried indignation over the charges. He said from the start they have already warned the CIDG personnel that the charges will boomerang.


Casilao said they were accused of rebellion when they were only exercising their right to freedom of expression in the march protest.


Ramada, Bayan Muna’s Southern Mindanao secretary general, said they have exhausted all legal means to battle the harassment. He said doing so showed their sincerity to work within the bounds of the Constitution debunking allegations they were fronting for communist rebels.


He said the retraction proves their credibility. "It should serve as a warning to all officials that the right of the public to convey protests does not necessarily mean rebellious or seditious," he stressed.


Ramada said, however, that accepting the retraction and apology does not absolve the CIDG as a whole of alleged violations. "It was just exclusive to the two officials," he said.


Corazon Espinosa, of Gabriela Women's Party, said even with the retraction and apology they are still hounded with increasing harassments.


Carlos Isagani Zarate, one of the group's lawyers, said the retraction cleared the respondents from rebellion as charged in the affidavit. He clarified that it came from the two officers, not from CIDG. "But the two officers were acting on official function when they executed the affidavit," he pointed out.