Tiamzon couple, their witnesses threatened in 1988 kidnapping case â lawyer
This undated photo shows peace consultants Benito and Wilma Tiamzon.
The STAR/Miguel de Guzman, file via Interaksyon

Tiamzon couple, their witnesses threatened in 1988 kidnapping case — lawyer

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - November 27, 2020 - 5:16pm

MANILA, Philippines — Peace consultants Benito and Wilma Tiamzon and their witnesses were threatened, preventing them from defending themselves in the kidnapping and serious illegal detention case in Quezon City court that convicted them on Friday, their lawyers said.

Lawyer Rachel Pastores, managing counsel from the Public Interest Law Center, said the Tiamzon couple could not effectively defend themselves in the case “because they and their witnesses are constantly subjected to threats to their lives, harassment, and surveillance.”

“They could have easily presented evidence in their defense and dispute the clear lies of the lone prosecution witness, a high ranking member of the military,” Pastores added.

The Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 216 found the Tiamzon couple guilty beyond reasonable doubt of kidnapping and serious illegal detention over an incident that happened in 1988 in Quezon province.

The court said that the case was submitted for resolution based solely on evidence presented by the prosecution that presented complainant Lt. Claro Casis.

Presiding Judge Alfonso Ruiz II noted the warrants of arrest were issued against the couple, freed provisionally to participate in the peace talks, on Aug. 29, 2018 after President Rodrigo Duterte scrapped formal and back-channel negotiations in 2017.

Malacañang lauded the court decision and said it showed that the “long arm of the law has finally caught up with the Tiamzon couple.”

“We therefore consider this latest court decision as a triumph of the justice system,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.

Manifestation filed prior to promulgation

Pastores said the case had more than 100 as accused but charges have been dismissed against many others. “Unfortunately, the self-serving and biased statements of the lone prosecution witness were used as basis for a finding of guilt for two accused,” she said.

She also said that before the date of promulgation, the Tiamzons submitted a manifestation enumerating serious threats to peace consultants, as seen in the cases of Randall Echanis and Randy Malayao who were brutally murdered in 2020 and 2019, respectively.

“The vilification of the Tiamzons, led by the president himself, has constricted their space for remedy or relief at this time. Given the present factual milieu, the Tiamzons, along with other peace consultants facing false charges in court, cannot avail of fair trial,” Pastores also said.

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