Court again postpones promulgation of judgment on ailing NDFP consultant

The Taguig City Regional Trial Court (RTC) again postponed the promulgation of its decision on the case against a National Democratic Front (NDFP) peace consultant, a move a political prisoner support group said only prolongs the suffering of those wrongfully accused.

Taguig RTC Branch 266’s notice did not even include a date for the next reading of judgment against NDFP consultant Frank Fernandez, his wife Cleofe Lagtapon and their help Ge-Ann Perez, the group Kapatid said.

“This means more waiting for heaven knows when,” the group told Kodao.

Last Tuesday’s postponement was the second in as many months.

Kapatid said the day of promulgation is when the innocent is expected to regain freedom.

Kapatid spokesperson Fides Lim added that weaknesses in the technicalities that courts cite for delays may also mean further violations on the rights of the wrongfully accused.

“For me, there should be penalties for every delay in the promulgation of judgments, instead of the courts offering mere apologies and early notices. There is a need to reform how the judiciary system is being managed,” Lim said in Filipino.

‘Firmly maintaining innocence’

In a public letter released before the promulgation, Fernandez said they firmly maintain their innocence against “trumped-up charges” of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

The former Roman Catholic priest and long-time NDFP-Negros Island spokesperson said that he, Lagtapon and Fernandez were seeking medical treatment for their various ailments and were not keeping firearms and explosives in the house they were staying at in Laguna province.

Fernandez, 75, suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), hyponatraemia, hypertension, atherosclerotic heart disease, and hyperplasia of prostate with obstruction, among other ailments that his continued imprisonment only worsens.

Lagtapon, 70, is pre-diabetic who also suffers from COPD while their 24-year old household help Perez suffers from Hansen’s Disease.

Fernandez recounted that when they were arrested at about five o’clock in the morning of March 24, 2019, they were handcuffed, blindfolded, and taken to separate safe houses where they were subjected to psychological torture to extract information about the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army.

Later, they were taken to a hospital for a checkup before being taken back to their rented house where firearms, grenades, ammunition, and a white powder unexplainably were seen on a table.

Kapatid said the complaints against the three were based on “planted evidence, perjured testimonies and sham witnesses.”

In his letter, Fernandez emphasized the groundless and trumped-up character of the cases against them.

“We believe that the trove of evidence, files of testimonies and several witnesses presented by the state authorities during court hearings failed miserably to prove beyond reasonable doubt that we committed such cited alleged criminal complaints,” he wrote.

He also mentioned the inconsistencies in the politically-motivated case, saying that “what was proven nonetheless was the altered and fictitious narratives; the lying, irrational logic and inconsistent statements by PNP officers.”

Dozens of Fernandez’s fellow NDFP consultants and staff arrested before and after him also face the same police charges in various courts all over the country. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)