43 farmers in Kidapawan rally acquitted
Of the 61 farmers pinpointed as participants in the clash with policemen during the protest action, only 43 of them were arrested and charged
Farmers and members of militant groups from seven towns and one city in North Cotabato block a portion of the Davao-Cotabato highway in Kidapawan City on March 30, 2016. The protesters (around 5,000 according to organizers and estimated at 3,000 by the police) are demanding, among others, the release of 15,000 sacks of rice as calamity assistance. Photo Courtesy: MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO
The Municipal Trial Court in Cities disclosed on Tuesday that it has acquitted the 43 Kidapawan City farmers who were involved in the 2016 protest where they allegedly assaulted policemen.
Documents obtained from the Public Attorney’s Office showed the judgement of acquittal was handed down last 18 May by Judge Rebecca Elena B. de Leon of the MTCC.
“The Court holds that it finds the evidence for their conviction with no recourse other than dismiss the case which is tantamount to a judgment of acquittal,” said the decision penned by De Leon.
The demurrer to evidence, according to PAO who represented the farmers, told the court that the evidence of the prosecution is “insufficient to prove their guilt with moral certainty and beyond reasonable doubt.”
Of the 61 farmers pinpointed as participants in the clash with policemen during the protest action, only 43 of them were arrested and charged.
The protest stemmed on the farmers’ plea for rice supply from the government due to severe drought that hit their farms.
“We laud the court for giving justice to said farmers. This decision proves that justice will flow like a river in our country as the PAO and its poor clients are waiting for swift and just victories for the Filipino people,” said PAO chief Persida Rueda-Acosta.
To recall, the farmers staged a protest on 20 March to 1 April 2016 organized by cause-oriented groups Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Anak Pawis, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and Apo Sandawa Lumadhong Pananghiusa Cotabato in front of the Spotswoods Methodist Church in Kidapawan City.
In the MTCC’s decision, the court stressed that on 1 April 2016 the protesters started throwing stones when “PSSupt. Alexander Tagum ordered the police and fire officers to engage after a five-minute ultimatum was given to protesters to disperse and clear the highway.”
Reports had it that two farmers were killed and 13 others were injured during the clash.
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