The Quezon City Regional Trial Court yesterday, February 9, conducted the hearing for the trumped-up charge of kidnapping against NDFP peace consultants Wilma Austria and Benito Tiamzon inside Camp Crame today.
The case, which was originally heard at the Quezon Ciy Regional Trial Court, was transferred to Camp Crame upon the initiative of Executive Judge Fernando T. Sagun after filing a motion before the Supreme Court. Executive Judge Sagun cited as basis the protest action of hundreds of peasants calling for the release of Austria and Tiamzon outside the Quezon City Hall of Justice on October 17, 2014. The Hall of Justice administration reacted by cancelling work and all hearings set on that day.
“The over reaction of the court to the legitimate right of the people to free expression leads to their baseless paranoia. The October 17 incident was a peaceful protest. There is no truth to the allegation that the protesters were banging the steel doors. It was in fact the police security escorts of Austria and Tiamzon who banged the steel doors when security guards did not allow them in,” said Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Karapatan Chairperson.
The scheduled Pre-trial hearing today was reset on April 15 because the prosecutor failed to present its complainants and witnesses, who could not be presented before the court due to distance, fare and security constraints.
The defense lawyers, represented by the Public Interest Law Center and the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, argued they have yet to see if the complainants are the original and real complainants in the case which allegedly happened 20 years ago.
“The military and the police have, time and again, been using gamut of old excuses at the expense of our clients. We are not buying the government’s excuses for not producing witnesses because they have all the machinery and resources. This only proves that this 20-year-old case is all fabricated and was only resurrected to harass Austria and Tiamzon,” added Hilao-Enriquez.
The Philippine National Police and the court imposed strict attendance to the hearing. Even the co-counsels to the case were initially disallowed to enter the room arguing that their names are not in the “list” of those who are allowed in the court.
”The transfer of venue in the bulwark of state security forces is obviously meant to prevent the friends and supporters of Austria and Tiamzon, as well as human rights advocates, from attending the hearing and to create a hostile environment for defense witnesses to freely give their testimony, without fear and hesitation,” ended Hilao-Enriquez.
Lawyers from the National Union of People’s Lawyers and the Public Interest Law Center are set to question the transfer of venue to Camp Crame.
Cristina “Tinay” Palabay
PUBLIC INFORMATION DESK
Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
2nd Flr. Erythrina Building
#1 Maaralin corner Matatag Streets
Central District, Diliman
Quezon City, PHILIPPINES 1101
Telefax: (+63 2) 4354146