Even 2 Aetas deny they were bribed to sign ATA petition — NUPL
MANILA, Philippines — Even the two Aeta men who are being accused of violating the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) told representatives of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) that they were not bribed or forced to sign a petition against the said law, members of the lawyers’ group said Wednesday.
Atty. Boni Cruz said they met with Japer Gurung and Junior Ramos earlier this Wednesday before they spoke in an online press briefing organized by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) facility in Olongapo City.
“Nakausap namin sila at tinanong namin kung totoo nilang sinabi ‘yung P1,000 na ibinigay sa kanila para sila ay pumirma. Sinabi nila na hindi totoo ‘yun. Sinabi rin nila na hindi sila pinilit noong tinatanong namin sila,” Cruz said in an online press briefing.
(We spoke with them and asked them if it is true that the P1,000 was given to them so they would sign the petition. They told us it is not true. They also said they were not forced to sign the petition when we were talking to them.)
Gurung and Ramos earlier said in their petition that soldiers tortured them to force them to admit that they were members of the New People’s Army (NPA). Lawyers from the NUPL represented them.
However, Solicitor General Jose Calida later said that the two men had dropped their petition and said that their lawyer had paid them P1,000 to sign the pleading.
Cruz and Atty. Julian Oliva, also from the NUPL, reiterated that the two Aeta men, who were the first persons known to be charged under the ATA for allegedly engaging in a shooting spree that killed a soldier last August, were not bribed to sign the pleading.
“‘Yung sinasabi na P1,000 ay nanggaling po sa mga magulang. May kasama pang gulay ‘yun. Hindi po iyon suhol, ‘yun po ay mga tulong na ipinaabot sa mga kapatid nating Aetas na nakakulong,” said Cruz.
(The P1,000 came from their parents. Vegetables were also given to them. That is not a bribe, those are just meant to help Aetas who are in jail.)
“Walang binigay na pera noong panahong nandoon kami. At alam ko rin sinabi sa amin ng paralegal hindi rin sila nakapagbigay ng pera noong ninotaryo ‘yung petition,” added Oliva, who further said that the wives of Gurung and Ramos are also in jail for alleged illegal possession of firearms.
(There was no money given when we were there. The paralegal also told us there was no money given when the petition was notarized.)
During the press briefing organized by the NTF-ELCAC, Gurung and Ramos said they are dropping NUPL as their legal counsel and that they wanted to get legal services instead from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO).
But according to Cruz, the NUPL remains to be the lawyer of the two since proper procedures for changing their counsel have not yet been made.
In a statement, the NUPL-Central Luzon also said that they were clueless about the alleged denial by Gurung and Ramos that they freely consented to the petition’s filing until the manifestation by Calida during the ATA oral arguments on Wednesday.
“What we know is that representatives from NCIP, including a lawyer, have been visiting and talking to them without our knowledge and in our absence,” the group said.
Asked if the NUPL will do something on the actions of NCIP and PAO, Cruz said: “We are contemplating, but as of now we have not yet decided on that matter. We are contemplating, actually.”
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.