‘Tortured’ Aetas seek SC help against anti-terror law
MANILA, Philippines – Mauled, placed inside a sack and hung upside down, suffocated with a plastic bag and cigarette smoke, and forced to eat his own feces to make him admit that he is a member of the New People’s Army.
That was Japer Gurung’s alleged plight contained in a petition-in-intervention filed before the Supreme Court.
It asked that they be allowed to join the call to declare as unconstitutional the controversial Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
Gurung is joined in the petition by Junior Ramos, his co-accused for violating the anti-terror law following the attack against the members of the 73rd Reconnaissance Company of the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army.
In their complaint, the military said seized from the two were firearms, ammunition, and subversive documents.
The two Aetas said they are lowly farmers tilling their small farms and foraging banana blossoms for a living. During a firefight last Aug. 21, 2020, they left their home with their families to ride a boat to a nearby evacuation center in Barangay Buhawen in Zambales.
However, the Aetas said soldiers stopped them, telling them about their safety, but later they were arrested for allegedly being members of the NPA who were trying to escape.
While in detention, Gurung said they were tortured to force an admission that they were members of the NPA, to which he did not budge.
After six days, they were charged with violation of the Anti-Terror Law and Illegal Possession of Firearms.
They are the first to be charged with the violation of the law, specifically Section 4 that defines terrorism, court records show.
Section 4 of the law is assailed in 37 petitions for allegedly being vagueness and for overbroad.
Assuming that Gurung and Ramos killed a military officer during the firefight, intervenors, through the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), said their offense at most is homicide.
The complaint against the two, to support a case for violating the Anti-Terrorism Act, “consists of mere conclusory statements.”
“With its utter vagueness, Section 4 does not only leave ordinary citizens guessing at its meaning, [but] it also invites arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement,” read the petition-in-intervention.
While the case is pending, the two urged the high court to stop the law’s implementation as “they are now under threat of being imprisoned for life without the benefit of parole under a void and constitutional law.”
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