'Haran 15' urge DOJ to drop criminal charges

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 15 2016 05:33 PM

MANILA - Fifteen activists and lumad facing criminal charges for the alleged kidnapping and serious illegal detention in January 2015 of some 700 lumad at the United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP) Haran Evacuation Center in Davao City went to the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Friday to demand the dismissal of what to them are "trumped-up charges."

The criminal case, initiated by the Philippine National Police's Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG), was already filed in court and a warrant for respondents' arrest was issued by the Davao City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 10.

The so-called "Haran 15" filed a motion for reconsideration (MR) with a designated acting Davao City Prosecutor at the DOJ main office, in an effort to obtain a reversal of their indictment.

Before the Davao City trial court, respondents filed a motion to suspend proceedings and implementation of the arrest warrant pending a ruling on their MR. The trial court granted the plea and ordered a suspension of proceedings and implementation of the warrant until August 1, 2016.

Supported by representatives from Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), Bayan Muna party-list, Karapatan, Gabriela, and other progressive groups, the "Haran 15" sought an audience with Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II.

Aguirre, however, decided to sit down only with two representatives from the group: Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate and Atty. Manuel Quibod.

After the meeting, Zarate and Quibod said Aguirre assured them that the MR will be looked into and efforts will be made to resolve the case before the August 1 deadline.

The "Haran 15" claim hundreds of Ata Manobos from Talaingod and Kapalong, Davao del Norte and San Fernando, Bukidnon fled their lands and sought shelter at the Haran Evacuation Center "due to atrocities committed by the military."