Laguna prosecutors junk terrorism, murder raps vs human rights advocate, 15 others

Ian Laqui - Philstar.com
Laguna prosecutors junk terrorism, murder raps vs human rights advocate, 15 others
This photo shows a picture of the 20-year-old human rights worker Hailey Pecayo
KARAPATAN / Released

MANILA, Philippines — The Laguna prosecutors have dismissed charges of terrorism and other criminal accusations against Hailey Pecayo, a 20-year-old human rights worker, and 15 others .

In a consolidated resolution dated November 20, Associate City Prosecutor Christian Castro explained that the charges, which included terrorism, violation of international humanitarian law, and attempted murder, lacked sufficient evidence linking Pecayo and the other accused to their alleged involvement in a military encounter in Batangas.

“First, the spot report as well as the progress report failed to identify the respondents. Second, the firefight happened in a forested area as depicted in the pictures, and (the) complainant and his witnesses were 10 to fifteen 15 meters away from the persons shooting them,” the resolutions read.

“Third, the armed encounter lasted for about 10 minutes, again in a forested area,” it added.

The prosecutors dismissed five complaints due to witnesses' inability to identify the accused as perpetrators of the alleged crimes.

“Too much emphasis on names was placed by the complainant and his witnesses in identifying the alleged wrongdoers in these cases. It is underscored that familiarity with the physical features, particularly those of the face, is actually the best way to identify the person,” Castro said.

Sgt. Jean Claude Bacaro and Capt. Ival Neil Ogatis filed complaints against Pecayo and 15 other individuals in September 2023, alleging their involvement as New People's Army members during a firefight at Sitio Amatong in Taysan, Batangas.

The prosecutors also said that the accused individuals were not present when the encounter occurred.

Pecayo welcomed the decision in her statement on X (formerly Twitter).

“Nagagalak ako sa desisyon ni Associate City Prosecutor Christian Castro ng City Prosecutor's Office ng Santa Rosa, na pumanig sa katotohanan laban sa pinagkakalat ng 59th Infantry Battalion na mga kasinungalingan,” she said.

(I am pleased with the decision of Associate City Prosecutor Christian Castro of the City Prosecutor's Office of Santa Rosa, to stand by the truth against the lies spread by the 59th Infantry Battalion.)

“Paunang tagumpay ito, hindi lang sa akin kundi para sa napakarami pang hindi nababalitang mga pangalan, dahil sila ang lubhang dinadaganan ng takot ng 59th IB sa Batangas,” she added.

(This initial victory is not just for me but for many other unnamed individuals who are greatly burdened by the fear imposed by the 59th IB in Batangas.)

Rights group KARAPATAN also lauded this decision by the Laguna prosecutors saying it exposed “fabricated lies.”

“The dismissal of the complaints of soldiers of the 59th Infantry Battalion by Office of the City Prosecutor in Sta. Rosa, Laguna exposes the fabricated lies against Pecayo and other respondents and that such charges including the terror law were made to threaten, harass, and intimidate Pecayo in a desperate attempt to dissuade her from doing her work as a human rights worker,” KARAPATAN said in a statement.

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