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Saturday, April 20, 2024

43 Kidapawan farmers acquitted of assault raps filed by policemen

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THE Kidapawan Municipal Trial Court has dismissed assault charges filed by policemen against 43 Kidapawan farmers who were allegedly involved in the violent protest action along the Kidapawan Highway in 2016 that left two farmers dead and injured numerous others.

The 43 farmers were charged with direct assault upon an agent of a person in authority by the policemen who responded to the site to conduct a peaceful dispersal of the protesters.

In a 20-page decision, Judge Rebecca Elena de Leon granted the farmers’ demurrer to evidence due to the insufficiency of evidence presented by the prosecution.

A demurrer to evidence is a motion that seeks dismissal of the criminal charges on allegations that the prosecution’s evidence is weak to sustain a conviction.

“Consequently, as the prosecution has clearly failed to discharge its burden of overcoming the presumption of innocence of the accused by proving their guilt beyond reasonable doubt, the Court hold that it finds the evidence insufficient for their conviction with no recourse other than to dismiss the case which is tantamount to a judgment of acquittal,” the ruling stated.

The court noted that the common testimonies of the police witnesses were that they saw a mob of protesters throw stones at them and then arrested each one of the accused.

However, the court noted they were unsure whether the one they arrested had been among those who threw stones at them.

“Nothing in the evidence presented even indicates that the particular complainants were injured by the stones coming from a particular accused. No overt acts of stone-throwing therefore can be attributed to any one of the accused, thereby negating the prosecution’s claim of conspiracy,” it added.

The court did not give weight to the claim of the prosecution there was a conspiracy among the protesters and that “an act of one accused throwing a rock towards the police officers, regardless of whether or not it hit anybody, is an unlawful assault by all of the accused against the entire Philippine National Police, an agent of a person in authority.” Joel R. San Juan

Although there was no dispute that the police officers were hit with stones by protesters, the court stressed that the prosecution failed to prove the identity of the persons responsible for the acts complained of.

The farmers’ rally, held from March 20 to April 1, 2016, was organized by various cause-oriented groups to condemn the government’s lack of assistance.

In a statement, the Public Attorney’s Office, which represented the farmers, welcomed the court’s decision.

“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,” PAO Chief Persida Acosta said. Joel R. San Juan


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