This was said to be the first time in Southern Tagalog for individuals to be charged with “violating” the Terror Law.
As the nation prepares to hear Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s final State of the Nation Address (SONA), the mark of the Anti-Terrorism Law still lingers.
Last July 22 saw four farmers from Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro arrested by elements of the 76th Infantry Battalion (IB) under the belief that they were violating the highly contested Republic Act (RA) 11479, more colloquially known as the “Terror Law.”
Human rights alliance Karapatan Timog Katagalugan (TK) says that while Miguel Manguera and Fe Merinas would be charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives, Shelito Casidad and Allen dela Fuente would be facing obstruction of justice cases. All four were being accused of aiding the revolutionary group New People’s Army (NPA) in an unspecified encounter last July 5.
Being the first time when the Terror Law was directly used against citizens in the Southern Tagalog (ST) region, Karapatan-TK immediately compared this case to what happened to Aetas Japer Gurung [initially reported in the Perspective’s earlier report as “Jay Garung”] and Junior Ramos. They also speculated that the four farmers might have been tortured as well, much like Garung and Ramos.
Both being the first to be officially charged under the law, alongside fellow Aetas Rosalyn Urbano and Kiray Serrano, charges against Gurung and Ramos would later be dropped by the Olongapo Regional Trial Court Branch 97. This was after authorities could not identify Gurung and Ramos of being involved in an alleged encounter in San Marcelino, Zambales (READ: 4 Aetas 1st to be charged under Terror Law).
While Anakbayan UP Los Baños asserted that there was little evidence to support the cases against Casidsid and Dela Fuente, Karapatan-TK said that the families of the arrested condemned the recent turn of events.
“Muling pinatutunayan nito ang mapanupil at mapaniil na katangian ng Anti-Terror Law laluna sa mga sibilyan, aktibista at sinumang maging [target] ng pasismo ni Duterte,” Karapatan-TK added.
In the year since it was first implemented, critics slammed the Terror Law’s vague measures and criteria as to who qualifies as a “terrorist.” This, in-turn, led to several reported cases of red-tagging, arrests, and even killings of not farmers, activists, and civilians.
Following the law’s commemoration this July, progressives once more called for the immediate junking of the Terror Law (READ: Progressives reflect on Terror Law 1 year since passage).
“[Isang] taon na ang nakalipas mula nang maisabatas ang Anti-Terror Law, at simula noon patuloy na tumataas ang bilang ng mga kaso ng red-tagging at illegal na pagkulong laban sa mga inosenteng mamamayan. Ang nasabing batas ay higit na lumalabag sa karapatang pantao ng bawat Pilipino, [kung] kaya’t nararapat lamang na ito ay ipasawalang-bisa.” Anakbayan UPLB stated. [P]