Calida says 2 Aeta farmers wish to withdraw petition to join fight vs anti-terrorism law
Solicitor General Jose Calida defended the Philippine government officials before the Supreme Court during the oral arguments on petitions challenging the Duterte administration's drug war.
The STAR/Miguel de Guzman, File

Calida says 2 Aeta farmers wish to withdraw petition to join fight vs anti-terrorism law

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - February 9, 2021 - 3:20pm

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 3:33 p.m.) — Solicitor General Jose Calida on Tuesday made a manifestation on the oral arguments on the Anti-Terrorism Act that Japer Gurung and Junior Ramos, two Aeta farmers charged under the law, are withdrawing their petition to join the legal fight against the ATA.

Calida made the manifestation as the SC resumes oral arguments on the 37 petitions challenging the law.

Calida told the magistrates that he is submitting three video clips and accompanying affidavits of Gurung and Ramos, subscribed before lawyers of the Public Attorney’s Office and endorsed by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples in Zambales.

The solicitor general said the NICP and PAO are now the new counsels of Gurung and Ramos who were previously represented by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers.

“Ayaw po na napilitan na rin kami pumirma, binigyan po kami ng P1,000 at hatiin daw po namin,” Calida read in part the affidavit.

“Aming inuurong ang Petition-in-Intervention na aming napirmahan sa kadahilanang hindi bukal sa aming puso at kapasyaan ang pagpirma,” Calida added.

( We did not want to and we were forced to sign, we were given P1,000 and were told to divide it... We are withdrawing the Petition-in-Intervention that we signed on the grounds that it was not from our heart the decision to sign.)

Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta meanwhile said the SC on Tuesday morning had unanimously denied the Gurung and Ramos’ Petition-in-Intervention.

Peralta told Calida that he still wishes to push through with their manifestation, they may do so in writing so the NUPL may also submit its own comment.

NUPL Chairperson Neri Colmenares, one of the seven oralists for the petitioners, raised questions on the new affidavit of Gurung and Ramos. He questioned how can lawyers force the two to sign the Petition-in-Intervention when they are detained inside police camp. "When the respondents talked to the petitioners, was there counsel also at the time we are really unaware of this," Colmenares said.

He added that if the manifestation would be filed by the solicitor general, the NUPL would respond at a proper time.

Why is the Aetas' case important?

Calida is aware of the weight of the case of Gurung and Ramos, as was discussed during the first day of the oral arguments on the consolidated petitions against the anti-terrorism law.

He recalled that Associate Justice Marvic Leonen had asked the petitioners whether the cases of the Aetas case may be the “actual case” against the law.

“The honorable Justice even hinted that maybe the Aetas case could provide an actual controversy to warrant this Court's exercise of its power of judicial review," Calida added.

Petitioners are mounting a facial challenge against the law as they argued that it deters protected speech and other fundamental rights. 

In July 2019, petitioners in a different case also withdrew their pleading after Calida. Also during oral arguments said they were duped into signing it.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines and rights lawyer Chel Diokno, lawyers of fisher folk, withdrew their petition for Writ of Kalikasan over parts of the West Philippine Sea.

The petition of the 19 fisher folk sought to compel the government to protect and rehabilitate the Scarborough Shoal, Ayungin Shoal and Mischief Reef, which China claims, and are in the Philippines' exclusive economic zone. But Calida told the SC that the group’s leaders, Monico Abogado and Roberto Asiado, said in their respective affidavits that they were “deceived” into signing the petition.

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