Court acquits 43 Kidapawan farmers tagged in assaulting cops in 2016 rally
MANILA, Philippines — Forty-three Kidapawan farmers, charged with assaulting policemen during their 2016 mass demonstration asking the government for food due to severe drought, have been acquitted.
The 43 farmers were part of the thousands of farmers and Lumads that blocked the Kidapawan Highway on April 2016 in protest of the government’s lack of assistance. For three months, the farmers have been calling for support for food due to severe drought.
Food assistance sent by private individuals, including celebrities, was blocked by authorities.
The protest led to a clash between the farmers and the police killing at least two and wounding 116. The police pointed to 61 individuals responsible for the attack but arrested only 43.
The 43 farmers have been charged with direct assault for throwing stones at the police officers.
During the presentation of evidence, the prosecution presented 45 witnesses. Through the Public Attorneys Office (PAO), the farmers filed a demurrer to evidence stating that the prosecution’s evidence was insufficient to prove the farmer’s guilty “with moral certainty and beyond reasonable doubt.”
The farmers told the court that the prosecution failed to identify who, among the 43 accused, caused the injury sustained by one police officer.
A demurrer to evidence is a motion to dismiss anchored on the ground that the evidence presented is insufficient.
The prosecution sought the dismissal of the demurrer to evidence saying there was a conspiracy among the protesters.
“An act of one accused throwing a rock towards the police officers, regardless of whether or not it hit anybody, is an unlawful assault by all of the accused against the entire Philippine National Police, an agent of a person in authority,” the court said quoting the prosecution’s argument.
The decision by Judge Rebecca Elena B. De Leon of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities granted the demurrer evidence.
“Here, while there is no dispute that the complaining law enforcers were hit with stones thrown at them by protesters on April 1, 2016, the prosecution has utterly failed to prove the identity of the persons responsible for the acts complained of,” the court said.
It added that “despite the numerous witnesses presented, the testimonies which have been obtained from them all paint the same picture as to how the accused were apprehended and arrested, such as — there was an altercation between the officers and protesters, stones were thrown at them from the mob of a thousand protesters, and finally, the officers arrested protesters without certainty as to whether the stone-throwing was definitely committed by the ones who were arrested.”
“Neither do any of the officers’ testimonies pointed to a specific accused as the same person who threw a stone towards members of the PNP (Philippine National Police),” the court added.
PAO Chief Persida Rueda-Acosta said: “we laud the court for giving justice to said farmers. This decision proves that justice will flow like a river in our country as the PAO and its poor clients are waiting for swift and just victories for the Filipino people.”