CA reverses conviction of KMU union organizer

By Joseph Cuevas

The 10th Division of the Court of Appeals (CA) has reversed the decision of two trial courts in Rizal province convicting a labor union organizer of possession of illegal firearms.

In a 18-page decision released last September 15, the CA voided the conviction of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) labor organizer Marklen Maojo Maga by San Mateo Regional Trial Court Branches (RTC) 75 and 76, sentencing him from 8 to 14 years imprisonment.

The May 16, 2019 decision by San Mateo RTC 76 Judge Josephine Zarate-Fernandez and the January 21, 2020 resolution by San Mateo RTC 75 by Judge Maria Beatrice Cunanan are set aside for failure of the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt Maga’s guilt, Kapatid, families and supporters political prisoners, announced Saturday, September 18.

Maklen Maojo Maga (Kilusang Mayo Uno photo)

The appellate court ordered Maga’s immediate release in connection with the illegal firearms possession charge.

Arrested by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police on February 22, 2018, Maga was nabbed for his alleged involvement in a government soldier’s murder in March 2017.

The arrest warrant against the union organizer was issued by Branch 34 of the Cabadbaran RTC in Agusan del Norte.

In its decision, the CA said the prosecution failed to present absolute proof the bag containing a gun belonged to the accused.

The appellate court also said the Rizal courts took as gospel truths the testimonies of the arresting officers despite inconsistencies.

The higher court also said the RTCs denied Maga the right to present additional witnesses to corroborate his testimony.

Initial victory

Maga’s wife Eleanor de Guzman told Kodao that the CA decision is a hard-fought victory, but a bittersweet triumph as the labor organizer still faces a criminal charge in Cabadbaran City.

Maga remains detained at the Metro Manila District Jail Annex 4 in Taguig City.

In a message posted on Facebook by de Guzman, Maga said he warmly welcomes his exoneration and considers it as a victory for all activists persecuted by the government.

“Unionists and activists are charged with trumped-up cases and manufactured evidence so they can jail and silence us and prevent us from our advocacies. Our imprisonment is the result of abuse of power and wrongful conviction by some courts who fail to truly study the cases before them,” Maga wrote in Filipino.

Maga added that the CA decision would greatly help in his defense against the murder charge in Agusan del Norte, a province he has never set foot in. #

Karapatan lauds affirmation of Palparan’s conviction

Human rights group Karapatan welcomed the affirmation of retired Major General Jovito Palparan’s conviction for the kidnapping of University of the Philippines students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno by the Court of Appeals last Tuesday.

“This recent legal victory affirms the need to pursue justice and accountability through and through — despite threats, harassment, reprisals, and patronage by those in power of these human rights violators,” the group in a statement said.

In a decision promulgated last May 31 by Court of Appeals (CA) First Division, the appellate court said Palparan and cohorts Lieutenant Colonel Felipe Anotado and Staff Sgt. Edgardo Osorio are sentenced to life imprisonment without eligibility of parole.

The three were also ordered to pay the families of the victims P300,000 in civil indemnity and moral damages, subject to six percent interest per year from the date of finality of the decision until full payment.

The CA affirmed Malolos Regional Trial Court Branch 15’s decision of September 2018 saying Palparan, Anotado and Osorio were responsible for the disappearance and serious illegal detention of the victims.

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Cadapan and Empeno remain missing to this day. Palparan meanwhile has started serving his 40-year imprisonment at the National Penitentiary in Muntinlupa City.

Karapatan said the affirmation of Palparan’s conviction could not have been possible without the strength and perseverance of the victim’s parents and the witnesses, as well as their lawyers and various local and international support groups.

“Sadly, Karen and She, along with many other desaparecidos remain missing, and Palparan should be made to divulge their whereabouts. This struggle for justice is for them and many other victims of State terrorism,” Karapatan said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)