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Ilocos court dismisses murder charges vs Baguio activist
The Baguio-based Cordillera Human Rights Alliance and the Cordillera Peoples' Alliance both welcomed and commended the court's decision.
via The STAR/Artemio Dumlao

Ilocos court dismisses murder charges vs Baguio activist

Artemio Dumlao (Philstar.com) - September 4, 2019 - 3:16pm

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — A local court has freed an activist after almost a year at an Ilocos Sur jail on murder and frustrated murder charges filed by the Ilocos Sur-based 81st Infantry Battalion.

Rachel Mariano, health program coordinator of the Baguio-based Community Health, Education, Services and Training in the Cordillera Region (CHESTCORE), submitted herself to the Regional Trial Court in Tagudin, Ilocos Sur on September 18, 2018.

Soldiers sued her and several others in connection with an October 15, 2017 attack by New People's Army guerrillas in Quirino, Ilocos Sur, where a soldier was killed and another wounded.

But Ilocos Sur RTC Branch 25 Judge Anacleto Bañez was unconvinced by testimony from soldiers that they saw Mariano shooting their comrades. He even cited inconsistencies in their accounts of the attack.   

"The totality of the conflicting versions of the prosecution witnesses' account on the incident on October 15, 2017 impels this court to entertain serious doubts as to the process of identification of Rachel Mariano as one of the perpetrators of the attack," the court said.

"This court is not morally convinced of her guilt," Judge Bañez added, saying "it would be deplorable to convict the accused of all these serious crimes charged against her upon the quality of the evidence adduced by the prosecution."

He said that evidence against Mariano was "insufficient and doubtful to sustain a verdict." 

The Baguio-based Cordillera Human Rights Alliance and the Cordillera Peoples' Alliance both welcomed and commended the court's decision.

"This further proves that the lies peddled by the state forces against activists and development workers who serve the marginalized and neglected indigenous communities are baseless and are meant only to strike fear, intimidate and quell our people's longing for real change,"  they said in a joint statement.

But Mariano’s problems do not end with her acquittal on these charges. 

She is also facing four counts of attempted and frustrated homicide related to an alleged armed clash between soldiers and rebels in Sigay, Ilocos Sur on August 4, 2017 and another case with 10 counts of attempted homicide related to another AFP-NPA firefight in Salcedo, Ilocos Sur on July 22, 2017.

Mariano and four others voluntarily submitted themselves to the court and posted bail for the two cases, granting them their temporary freedom.

CORDILLERA HUMAN RIGHTS ALLIANCE CORDILLERA PEOPLES ALLIANCE
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