The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Tuesday said it respects the ruling of an Olongapo court dismissing the anti-terror case against two Aeta farmers.
In an order dated July 15, the Olongapo Regional Trial Court Branch 74 ruled that Japer Gurung and Junior Ramos of the Aeta indigenous community in Zambales “were not proved to be perpetrators of terrorism” under Section 4 of Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
AFP public affairs office chief Navy Capt. Jonathan Zata said the military leadership respects the court ruling.
“Our efforts will nevertheless continue in order to put in the bar of justice criminals and perpetrators who engage in terroristic activities that hinder peace and development in our country,” he added.
Zata said the military remains a partner in implementing the Anti-Terrorism Act and would continue to cooperate with the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and the Anti-Terrorism Council in protecting the rights of the people especially the indigenous communities who are being exploited by communist terrorist groups.
Last February, the two Aetas disclosed that they were forced to sign the 42-page petition against the anti-terror law allegedly on the persistence of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), which is being linked to the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front.
The NUPL earlier claimed it has been representing Gurung and Ramos since September last year.
The two Aetas, however, decided to reject NUPL’s legal assistance and asked the help of the Public Attorney’s Office and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NICP).
Both the NTF-ELCAC and NCIP assured Gurung and Ramos that they will be provided with the necessary legal assistance during the court’s trials.
Gurung and Ramos were arrested on Aug. 26, 2020 when they were tagged as members of the NPA during a firefight with government troops.