Falsely charged rebel makes the most of his time
Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) - August 10, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Kim Gargar, a former physics professor of the University of the Philippines, was detained at the Baganga jail in Davao Oriental for 10 months after he was accused by the military of being a member of the New People’s Army (NPA).

This, however, did not stop him from doing what he loved: teaching.

“I prepared myself so I would not feel depressed, bored,” Gargar said in Filipino during a press conference in Quezon City yesterday. “I considered (the jail) as my new school. In teaching, you just need students.”

He said he taught literacy to his fellow inmates using flashcards. He said their sessions were generally informal, but nonetheless informative.

Gargar said he was able to teach the inmates the basics of physics and tried to provide them with legal advice.

He said some of the jail wardens were his students.

“Some wanted to take the civil service test. The others would take board exams in criminology,” he said, noting that he used the review materials brought by the wardens.

False charges

Gargar, 34, was arrested by members of the 67th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army in Cateel, Davao Oriental following an encounter with NPA rebels.

He was charged with two counts of frustrated murder, violation of the election gun ban and the non-bailable offense of illegal possession of explosives.

But according to Gargar, a PhD candidate of Groningen University in the Netherlands, he was conducting rehabilitation study on Pablo-devastated areas when he heard an exchange of gunfire on Oct. 1, 2013.

He said he tried to run away from the scene but he fell into a cliff that caused his injuries.

Gargar said he decided to stay in the area where he fell, hoping that his team would find him and bring him to a hospital.

However, the soldiers found him. He said he was surprised when supposed evidence against him, including rifles and explosives, were presented before the prosecutor when he was charged.

Freed on bail

Ten months after his arrest, the scientist was freed on bail after Judge Emilio Dayanghari III of the Baganga Regional Trial Court Branch 7 found inconsistencies in the testimonies presented against him.

The judge granted his request for bail even as the illegal possession of explosive charge was a non-bailable offense. The total bail for all charges was initially set at P420,000 but the court reduced it to P210,000.

Gargar said the court ruling on his bail petition proved that the evidence against him was weak.

He expressed hope that the charges against him will be dismissed.

Rey Cortez of the National Union of People’s Lawyers said they are studying the filing of counter charges against witnesses who falsely testified against Gargar, including military officers and prosecutors who connived to file the trumped up charges.

Giovanni Tapang, chairman of AGHAM, said the arrest of the scientist would have impact on the investigation of the country’s biodiversity.

“It might lessen the drive of scientists to investigate the country, which is the center of biodiversity in the world,” he said.

Tapang cited the case of renowned botanist Leonard Co, who was killed along with two of his companions in Leyte in 2010 when the military mistook them for NPA members

He said they are coordinating with Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate for the filing of a measure that will create a Magna Carta for the protection of scientists, especially those conducting fieldwork.

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