Court sets new bail hearing for Kidapawan protesters

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/ 11 April) – Farmers detained here for alleged “direct assault upon an agent of a person in authority” following the violent dispersal of the barricade along the national highway here last April 1 will have to wait for two more days as the Municipal Trial Court here will hear anew on Wednesday the motions for reduction of bail filed last Friday by the farmer’s defense counsel.

Judge Rebecca Elena De Leon set the new hearing on Wednesday to allow the defense team to provide judicial affidavits of the social workers on the indigency of the accused and the attending physicians for those who moved for the transfer of hospital confinement, as well as original copies of the indigency and medical certificates.

Lawyer Dionesio T. Alave, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines in North Cotabato, on Friday asked the court to reduce the bail for the provisional release of the farmers from P12,000 to P2,000.

“As extremely poor farmers with very limited means, it is impossible for them to pay the full amount of their bond… The Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office can attest that they belong to the indigent sector of our society,” he said in the motion.

Among the 79 farmers detained in Kidapawan Gym, Kidapawan Convention Hall, and Cotabato Provincial Jail in Brgy. Amas are a 78-year old grandmother and three pregnant women.

Orlando Daño, district attorney of the Public Attorneys Office, argued that most of the farmers are not capable of paying the bail as they can even hardly afford to buy rice for themselves.

“The accused belong to the farmers and lumads. They are hit so much by the El Niño that a mere statement that the rice would be given induced them to come out of their far-flung areas to Kidapawan City,” he said.

The prosecution said they did not object to the motion to reduce the bail but the amount of P2,000 that the defense team sought the court to grant is too small and “might cause convenience and temptation on the part of the accused to ignore court processes resulting to the delay of trial.”

“We do not object as to the reduction of the bail… we are objecting to the amount of bail they are asking, considering the gravity of charges that we filed,” prosecution lawyer Eugene Seron told reporters after the hearing.

He also said they wanted to ensure the appearance of the accused farmers in court as they live in the far-flung neighboring municipalities. There are a total of 79 farmers who are charged with illegal assembly and direct assault upon a person in authority.

Although they are farmers, Seron said it was not clear how much they earn and if indeed they are incapable of paying the bail.

“If the only basis is the allegation that they are extremely poor farmers, all of them through their counsel failed to attach evidences as proof of their income for a specified period of time, no affidavit to prove the authenticity of these… financial capacity is not the only consideration to grant reduction of bail,” the prosecution’s comment to the motion stated.

Gregorio Andolana, representing the Diocese of Kidapawan and the Integrated Bar of the Phlippines’ Committee on Legal Aid here said the farmers should not be charged, in the first place, as they only exercised their constitutional right to peacefully assemble.

“How can a 70-year old grandmother inflict harm?” he asked.

He maintained that the motion be granted on the grounds of humanitarian considerations as he emphasized that setting a bail beyond their capacity to pay is also a deprivation to bail.

“The government has all the resources, the government has also many recourses … the government is not short of any alternative,” he said in response to the prosecution’s manifestation that those who post bail may not appear in the hearings of the case.

De Leon also requested the defense team to submit judicial affidavits from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) 12 to back the certification of indigency of the farmers as proof of their incapability to pay the bail.

Representatives from DSWD 12 who were present during the hearing manifested to comply with the affidavits on the same day.

On the transfer of hospital confinement, Judge De Leon told the defense team to supply original copies of the medical certificates and judicial affidavits from doctors who attended to the accused victims.

In a separation motion, accused Darwin Magyao and Alfie Awe, both confined at the Madonna General Hospital Inc., prayed that they would be allowed to transfer hospital confinement to Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City.

“Both accused are presently confined at the Madonna Medical Hospital in Kidapawan City, due to gunshot wounds they sustained. They need to undergo operation and further medical procedures,” the motion said.

It added that the Madonna Medical Hospital already allowed their transfer but Judge De Mesa said motion must have a supporting medical certificates and judicial affidavits of the attending physicians. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)