Green activists Castro, Tamano move to quash defamation raps

Ian Laqui - Philstar.com
Green activists Castro, Tamano move to quash defamation raps
This photo shows a picture of abducted environmental activists Jhed Tamano and Jolina Castro, along with Rep. Raoul Manuel (Kabataan Partylist) with environmental and human rights groups during a press conference in front of the Court of Appeals on Feb. 22, 2024.
Ian Laqui / Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — Abducted environmental activists Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro have filed a motion to quash the information before the Doña Remedios Trinidad Municipal Trial Court (MTC) on the charges of grave oral defamation against them. 

In an 87-page motion filed by the green activists before the MTC on Thursday, they argued that the court does not have jurisdiction over the charges, saying that if the facts stated were accurate, the event took place in Plaridel, Bulacan, and not in Doña Remedios Trinidad.

“Contrary to the allegations stated in the Informations, the incident where the Accused allegedly uttered the defamatory statement/s took place at the Municipal Hall of Plaridel, Bulacan. It was not anywhere in or within Doña Remedios Trinidad, Bulacan,” the motion read.

A motion to quash is a legal motion filed before the court aimed at declaring a particular indictment, information or charge against the accused invalid.

This motion can be filed by an accused before entering a plea.

They also asserted that the trial court's authority to try the case was nullified because of the infringement of their fundamental constitutional rights.

“With due respect, it is the Accused's position that given the findings of the Supreme Court (SC) in the Petition for Issuance of Writ of Amparo and Habeas Data that the Accused's constitutional rights to life, liberty and security were violated by the Private Complainants which thus warrant the issuance of a Writ of Amparo, this Honorable Court therefore is ousted of its jurisdiction to try the case,” the motion read. 

“It is a cardinal precept that in cases of a violation of basic constitutional rights, courts are ousted from their jurisdiction. Such violation raises serious jurisdictional issues which cannot be glossed over or disregarded at will,” it added.

Last month, the SC granted writs of amparo and habeas data as well as a temporary protection order to the green activists due to the established violation of their life, liberty, and security.

The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict  planned to showcase Tamano and Castro as "rebel returnees" at a press conference following their purported reappearance, days after Tamano and Castro disappeared in September 2023. 

However, during the event, the environmental activists disclosed military participation in their abduction, leading to perjury charges filed against them by the commanding officer of the 70th Infantry Battalion with the Department of Justice (DOJ).

The DOJ then recommended filing charges of grave oral defamation on January 29, after it dismissed the perjury charges filed by the military. 

Meanwhile, the MTC also moved the activists' pre-trial and arraignment to April.

The court also ordered the prosecutor to file a comment on the activist's motion to quash the information within ten days from receipt of the order.

“This court is inclined to defer the arraignment and pre-trial of these cases pending the resolution of the accused's Motion for Reconsideration filed before the National Prosecution Service,” it said.

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