DOJ junks kidnapping, other raps vs Colmenares, Elago, etc. over 'missing' student-activist

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 26 2020 09:08 PM | Updated as of Oct 26 2020 10:27 PM

Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Elago and Former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares. File

MANILA — Prosecutors at the Department of Justice (DOJ) have junked kidnapping and other complaints against former lawmaker Neri Colmenares, Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Elago and 10 others over an allegedly “missing” student-activist.

In a resolution dated Oct. 15, the prosecutors dismissed for lack of probable cause the kidnapping and failure to return a minor raps against Colmenares, Elago, Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison, and 9 leaders and members of ANAKBAYAN.

They were also accused of violating the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against Humanity (RA 9851).

Relissa Lucena and the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection group filed the criminal raps with the DOJ in August last year, claiming that ANAKBAYAN brainwashed her daughter, Alicia or AJ Lucena, into joining the New People’s Army (NPA).

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At the time her recruitment, the complainants alleged that Alicia was still a minor and a senior high school student at the Far Eastern University.

But prosecutors, led by Assistant State Prosecutor Noel Antay, Jr., rejected the kidnapping claim, saying the complainants failed to show that the respondents were entrusted with custody of Alicia and that they deliberately failed to return her to her home.

The prosecutors also said there was no basis to charge the respondents of violating RA 9851, which prohibits enlisting or recruiting children into an armed force and using them to participate actively in hostilities.

“While it may be true that Alicia was recruited by members of ANAKBAYAN to join them and was belligerent and ill-tempered towards her parents since her membership, the complainants nevertheless failed to prove that ANAKBAYAN is an armed force or that the members thereof used children to participate in hostilities,” the resolution said.

“As it appears in the evidence presented, ANAKBAYAN is just a comprehensive national mass organization of the Filipino youth that is advocating for jobs, land reform, education, rights and justice. There is also no evidence presented showing that ANAKBAYAN is the recruiting arm of or somehow connected to the CPP-NPA-NDF.”

The DOJ prosecutors rejected the testimony of 2 rebel returnees who testified on the alleged modus operandi of youth groups in recruiting full-time CPP-NPA-NDF members.

They said the narrations of the 2 returnees were only based on their personal experiences as members of LFS (League of Filipino Students), Kabataang Makabayan, and GABRIELA Youth, not as members of ANAKBAYAN.

“In fact, their allegation that ANAKBAYAN recruits minors to become members of the CPP-NPA-NDF remains unsupported by any evidence and would not suffice to determine the existence of probable cause,” they added.

The prosecutors noted that complainants failed to present evidence to prove the connection of ANAKBAYAN to the 3 groups nor to the CPP-NPA-NDF.

President Rodrigo Duterte, in December 2017, declared the CPP-NPA a terrorist organization. The government had also sought to judicially declare CPP and NPA as terrorist organizations under the Human Security Act of 2007, which the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 repealed.

The DOJ prosecutors said there was nothing in Alicia’s letters to her parents that she was being recruited by ANAKBAYAN nor the CPP-NPA-NDF. 

“As it appears, the letter merely contains, among others, the predicaments, disappointments and bad experiences of Alicia with her parents from a young age, and her plan to leave them after she entered college,” read the resolution.

Prior to filing the complaint with the DOJ, Alicia’s mother also testified at a Senate hearing.

But Alicia surfaced at a press conference at the House of Representatives on Aug. 14 last year, accusing the military and the police of using her family’s problem in advancing their agenda. In a Facebook post, she denied being coerced and said she joined Anakbayan voluntarily.

She also executed an affidavit submitted as supporting affidavit by one of the respondents to another set of DOJ raps, saying she left their house because her parents detained her twice.

“Hindi ako ‘missing.’ Umalis talaga ako sa bahay dahil hindi ko na kinakaya ang ginagawa niyang pang-aabuso, pagkulong at pangre-repress sa akin,” she said. 

While the DOJ raps were pending, Alicia’s parents also went to the Supreme Court to seek protective writs, assisted by lawyer Ferdinand Topacio and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

The high court dismissed the petition.

Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers, said the DOJ resolution "is a resounding rebuff of irresponsible and bigoted creatures who are full of themselves."

"Viewed with other significant dismissals of other false and trumped-up harassment cases - rare and far between as they may be -, this gives some sliver of hope that sooner or later, we will be vindicated by people in government who remain professional, evenhanded and fair, most especially in the light of indubitable facts and a no-nonsense application of the law," said Olalia.

The downside though is that "the process takes quite some time that renders 'due process' more of a 'done process' for many who are lesser known, cases less publicized, and charges more vicious and well-manufactured by habit and practice," he lamented.