Cleared by court, ‘wrongfully’ jailed peasant leader dies
A Quezon City trial court had ruled that he was wrongfully jailed for more than 11 years in a case of “outright mockery” of due process by the military establishment. But justice eluded detained peasant leader Eduardo Serrano, 62, who died on Friday before regaining his freedom.
Serrano, a consultant in peace negotiations between the communist National Democratic Front (NDF) and the government, passed away at 8:10 a.m. at the Philippine Heart Center where he was brought on Dec. 16 after he suffered a heart attack in detention, Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes said, quoting Dr. Geneve Rivera-Reyes of the Health Alliance for Democracy.
“Ka Eddik” to his friends, Serrano was arrested by the military in 2004 and detained as “Rogelio Villanueva,” one of the accused in the ambush of Army soldiers in Oriental Mindoro province.
In October last year, Judge Marilou Runes-Tamang of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 98 ruled that “the representatives of the State miserably failed its primary duty to identify the identity of the accused at the cost of horror of Serrano being prosecuted for 11 bygone years.”
“It is an outright mockery of the basic human right to due process of law which is enshrined in our Constitution,” Tamang said.
His lawyer, Amylyn Sato of the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) mourned the passing of Eduardo Serrano as a “long-time client, friend and father figure.”
“In the past 12 years, Serrano fought five trumped-up charges filed against a certain Rogelio Villanueva. Three of these were dismissed for lack of evidence, one was up for promulgation and the remaining case was on trial,” Sato said in a statement.
“Despite the heavy brunt of state repression and wrongful imprisonment, he remained genuinely optimistic about and committed to a just and lasting peace. PILC is proud to have stood for him in court and by him in his life struggle,” she added.
Edre Olalia, secretary general of the National Union of People’s Lawyers and Serrano’s former counsel, said Serrano was a “selfless, simple and humble human being who simply wanted to fight injustice, oppression and penury till his last breath.”
Serrano suffered from a heart attack on Dec. 16 and underwent surgery at the Philippine Heart Center.
The human rights group Karapatan had been urging the government to release Serrano on humanitarian grounds.
Serrano was among the 561 political detainees under President Aquino’s term and the 19 NDFP consultants detained despite the immunity provided for by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, Karapatan earlier said.
“We reiterate our call for the immediate release of all political prisoners, especially those who are sick, elderly, pregnant or are nursing mothers. We call for a stop to the filing of trumped-up charges against political dissidents. We call for justice for Eduardo Serrano and all victims of state repression,” Reyes said.
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