2 Aetas accused of terrorism, possession of subversive documents can't read or write: NUPL

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 03 2021 10:40 AM | Updated as of Feb 03 2021 10:41 AM

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MANILA - The two Aetas accused of terrorism and possession of subversive documents cannot read or write, the National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL) said Wednesday.

Japer Gurung and Junior Ramos, through the NUPL-Central Luzon, earlier filed a petition-in-intervention as the Supreme Court began oral arguments on the Anti-Terrorism Law.

Gurung and Ramos are accused of violating the widely-opposed act for allegedly firing and shooting at members of the Armed Forces during an encounter with the New People's Army in Zambales in August.

According to NUPL, they were part of a group of Aetas evacuating due to intense military operations and continued bombings in their ancestral lands in Zambales when they were arrested by the members of the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army on August 21, 2020.

Soldiers planted grenades, ammunition and subversive documents in the farmers' possessions, said NUPL spokesperson Josalee Deinla.

"They do not know who read and write. Signing the verification for their petition-in-intervention, they only put their thumbmarks there because they do not know how to sign," she told ANC's Headstart.

"They have been consistently and vehemently denying the charges against them, the grenades and ammunition, and even the subversive documents planted in their possession they have not seen them."

The two and their family were among residents evacuating during the armed incident and stopped by their relatives' house where they met the soldiers, according to Deinla.

The soldiers told them to stay because it was not safe as the military was still pursuing NPA rebels, she added.

"They even fed the soldiers. They cooked the lunch for them. At noon time, the soldiers told them 'you can no longer leave because you’re already under arrest. We believe you are part of the NPA unit who attacked our soldiers this morning,' which is not true," she said.

"The soldiers allowed the relatives to go ahead, proceed to the port where they’re supposed to board a bangka to evacuate to a barangay."

The farmers are among the first publicly-known terrorism cases pending before a Philippine court after President Rodrigo Duterte signed the law which took effect in July.

The alleged shootout between the two and the military supposedly led to the death of a soldier, based on the criminal charge against them.

Deinla said the military's move to detain the two was "an act of reprisal against the civilians."

"It’s actually the practice of the military to detain civilians in retaliation to the NPA," she said.

"They actually suffered horrendous torture, mental or psychological and physical alike, in the hands of their military captors for 6 days before they were turned over to the jail."