[RE: AHRC-UAU-003-2009: PHILIPPINES: Human rights and political activists exonerated from murder cases face another questionable charge]
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is pleased to inform you that fabricated murder charges filed against a labour leader and other activists have been dismissed on grounds of merit by the San Pablo City prosecutor on 13 February 2012. While the same charges were earlier dismissed by a lower court in breach of criminal procedure, the prosecution had re-filed the charges against the same accused, using the same evidence and witness.
In our appeal (AHRC-UAC-239-2008) of 28 October 2008, we reported the arrest of Remigio Saladero Jr., a labour lawyer. He was arrested and detained over fabricated charges of multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder, together with several other activists whom the police arrested between October and November 2008, for the killing of two policemen and a civilian driver in an ambush in Puerto Galera, Mindoro Oriental on 3 March 2006.
Photo: Remigio Saladero, Jr. giving lecture at the Faculty of Law, University of Hong Kong in April 2009.
On 19 February 2009, we issued an updated appeal (AHRC-UAU-003-2009) informing that Judge Manuel C. Luna, Jr., of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Calapan City, had ordered to “quash” the criminal complaint against the accused due to breach of rules of court by putting together all the charges in one complaint. Judge Luna held the accused could not be charged for multiple murder and frustrated murder of six different individuals in one complaint. He ruled “each act of murder and frustrated murder should have been charged in separate information (complaint)”.
In dismissing the complaint, however, the court did not rule on the substance and merit, but rather on the procedural violation of court rules. Considering that the dismissal of cases on this ground does not prohibit them from re-filing the case, the prosecution proceeded to re-file the complaint by separating the case into two complaints, while still using the same evidence and witness.
This time, however, the prosecutor who first conducted the investigation and indictment of the case in Calapan City court withdrew himself from the prosecution. The complaints were thus turned over to another prosecution office in San Pablo City for determination of ‘probable cause’.
Three years later, on 13 February 2012, the prosecutor in San Pablo City investigating the complaint, Elnora Nombrado, issued her resolution (note: we are publishing the resolution in verbatim as we received it) concluding to dismiss the two murder complaints, firstly, for frustrated multiple murder, secondly, for multiple murder, against all the accused that was earlier argued by the prosecutor to have had “probable cause.” Here, the dismissal by the prosecutor deals with the merit and substance of the case.
In her resolution, Prosecutor Nombrado dismissed the complaint on two grounds; firstly, the complainants could not identify their attackers, and secondly, the sole witness, who himself was not at the scene when the ambush happened, “failed to identify any of the respondents”. She argued that,
“Pivotal, then, is the positive identification of the alleged perpetrators of the ambush. It is curious that during the confrontation conducted by the undersigned, Silva failed to identify any of the respondents present in the before him. As matters stand, the present complaints hang by ‘a single thread of evidence, the direct evidence of Silva’s identification of the perpetrators of the killing. But that Single thread was thin, and cannot stand sincere scrutiny. In every criminal prosecution, no less than moral certainty is required in establishing the identity of the accused as the perpetrator of the crime. Silva’s identification of tile respondents as tile perpetrators did not have unassailable reliability; the only means by which it might be said to be positive and sufficient. Silva failed to substantiate his allegations by clear and convincing evidence. His allegations are so general and so sweeping but lacking in providing details of the actual attack and of the identities of the actual shooters.”
In its written submission for the 19th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, the Asian Legal Resource Center (ALRC) has already raised concerns about the systematic abuse of legal procedures by prosecutors in prosecuting fabricated charges against political and human rights activists: ALRC-CWS-19-03-2012.
To end, the AHRC wishes to thank those who responded to this appeal. We also express our appreciation to the local groups, the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) and the Prolabor Legal Assistance Center (PLACE), for their invaluable efforts in this case.
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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