Mom of child witness in Sagay killings seeks prosecutor's recusal

Mom of child witness in Sagay killings seeks prosecutor's recusal
In this file photo taken in 2018, protesters call for justice for the nine sugarcane workers slain in Sagay, Negros Occidental.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — The mother of a witness in the killing of nine farmers in Sagay, Negros Occidental last October asked the state prosecutor handling her complaint to recuse from the preliminary investigation.

In a Motion for Inhibition filed before the Department of Justice Monday, Flordeliza Cabahug asked Assistant Prosecution Attorney Roxanne Cu to inhibit from the Anti-Violence Against Women and Anti-Child Abuse complaints she filed against the father of her child.

Cabahug, through her counsels from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, specifically noted that during a clarificatory hearing Cu asked how rights organization Karapatan came into the picture.

“She remarked that she could not ‘imagine’ how Karapatan suddenly became involved in the incidents concerning the complainant. Obviously, she failed to note that it is clearly stated at the complaint-affidavit that it was Karapatan that the guardian of the minor sought assistance,” the motion read.

READ: Kidnapping raps vs lawyer of 'Sagay 9' witness's mother baseless, Karapatan says | Lawyer faces raps for taking custody of massacre witness

The complainant also raised that the state prosecutor demonstrated “manifest bias and partiality” against the complainant and her counsel as shown in the questions she propounded during a hearing.

The complainant noted that Cu asked Cabahug’s estranged husband how long have they been separated. The state prosecutor also asked the mother of the child witness why did she only filed a case ten years since they split.

The said questions, said the petitioners, were done under the guise of “side questions.”

“It is further evident that these ‘side questions’ are not trivial or merely satisfies one’s curiosity,” the motion read.

“Prosecutor Cu moreover betrayed her prejudice against complainant through her ‘side questions.’ She bred this at the outset of the preliminary investigation when she asked about Karapatan’s role in complainant’s ordeal, as if questioning the organization’s motives,” they added.

The complaint is an offshoot of the killing of nine sugarcane workers in Sagay, which the child witness.

Karapatan: File cases against cops, military in Negros 14 killing

In a related development, rights group Karapatan recommended the filing of complaints against cops and soldiers who were part of operations across Negros Oriental on March 30 where 14 farmers were killed.

In a statement last week, Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, said: “Those in government who justify the said violations as results of ‘legitimate operations’ have their twisted definition of what is right and wrong. As in numerous cases in the sham drug war and in many other killings of activists, such alibis are proven wrong by the victims and witnesses of such dastardly crimes.”

Palabay said that Karapatan will submit a full report to the National Fact-finding and Solidarity Mission that is looking into the operations.

READ: Fact-finding mission alleges irregularities in bloody Negros Oriental ops

The NFSM also recommended “the identification of government agencies and officials who had prior knowledge of or involvement in the operation, and the public release of documents relevant to the operation, including all search warrants used during the operation, the applications for these search warrants, and all reports filed by personnel of the PNP, AFP, and other government agencies in relation to the operation.” 

Rights groups slammed the killing of the 14 persons who they said are not involved in ambush operations against military but are farmers and habal habal drivers.

The police and the Malacañang however assert the legitimacy of the operation. — Kristine Joy Patag

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