Activists accused of "terrorism" file submit counter affidavits in court in Nueva Ecija

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The four activists accused by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) of “terrorism” or violation of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 filed a counter affidavits at the Hall of Justice in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija today, on May 3. Human rights defenders and mass organizations held a picket before the said hall concurrent with the filing. Nathanael Santiago, Anasusa San Gabriel, Rosario Brenda Gonzales, and Servillano Luna, Jr. were charged with “terrorism”.

Karapatan’s previous statement says the accused individuals did not have the opportunity to present evidence because they did not receive a subpoena or any notice. The prosecutor also issued a resolution without hearing their side.

The four accused are active members of organizations that promote the rights of the poor and oppressed. Santiago is currently the Secretary General of the Bayan Muna Partylist since 2000 and is also currently serving as the Secretary General of the Koalisyong Makabayan since its establishment in 2009. He is among those who petitioned the Supreme Court against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

Meanwhile, San Gabriel has been a volunteer of the Bulacan Ecumenical Forum (BEF) since 2017 and has been a partner of communities and organizations in defending the livelihood and rights of those affected by reclamation and development projects in Manila Bay. Gonzales is convenor of Assert Socio-economic Initiatives Network (ASCENT) while Luna is an official of Anakpawis Partylist.

“The filing of trumped-up cases, along with the red-tagging, creates a toxic system that sideswipes the principles of justice and human rights,” Bayan Muna said. It condemned these heinous tactics and demanded an end to the harassment and persecution of activists and members of the political opposition.

The groups are calling for the dismissal of trumped-up charges against activists and the [repeal of the] very Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 that the government uses to prevent progressive groups and individuals from fighting for their rights.

Involved in armed conflict

The charge of “terrorism” was based on the four activists being implicated by the AFP in the encounter between the 84th IB and the New People’s Army (NPA) in Barangay San Fernando Sur, Laur, Nueva Ecija on October 8, 2023. The NPA-Nueva Ecija owned the said encounter.

Their statement says at least four soldiers of the 84th IB were killed while many others were wounded. Soldiers of the 84th IB were operating in densely populated areas and close to communities, according to the NPA unit, so they tried to keep civilians out of harm’s way in the area when the fighting broke out.

The 84th IB did the opposite, firing indiscriminately for almost an hour without regard for civilians. The report says a few minutes before the encounter, the soldiers marched along the road causing fear and apprehension among the civilians and tourists visiting the Seminublan Falls in the barangay.

AB: Activists accused of "terrorism" file submit counter affidavits in court in Nueva Ecija