After 7 years, Cavite 4 walk free from ‘wrongful conviction’

By Joseph Cuevas

The last of the group of detainees called the Cavite 4 walked free from Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City on Monday, February 6, after being cleared from his other pending cases.

Rommel Nuñez regained his freedom after seven years, along with George Bruce, Jose Nayve and Armando Matres who were earlier released on January 31.

In a 26-page decision last January 26, the 4 were acquitted of the charges of illegal possession of explosives and malicious mischief by Taguig Regional Trial Court Branch 266 Judge Marivic Vitor.

In a separate order last January 30, the Court issued a release order, saying the four have served more than the minimum prison sentence for their conviction for illegal gun possession.

Atty. Noel Neri of the Pro Labor Assistance Center and counsel to the Cavite 4 said the Court granted their Urgent Motion to Release because of the total years his clients served in detention.

Neri added that they will file a Motion for Reconsideration on the conviction of the newly-freed detainees.

Rommel Nunez (right) fetched from jail by his lawyer Noel Neri of the Pro Labor Assistance Center. (Noel Neri photo)

Wrongfully accused

To this day, the Cavite 4 maintain their innocence on the charges filed against them.

In November 23, 2015, the four happened to be together at a fair (peryahan) at Barangay Manggahan in General Trias, Cavite when they heard gunshots nearby.

The next thing they knew, the police approached them and ordered them to lie on the ground. They were beaten and dragged into a police vehicle.

At the police station, the four were subjected to more torture and accused of being members of the New People’s Army allegedly responsible for firing guns at the vicinity of the fairgrounds.

Nayve recalled a plastic bag was repeatedly placed on his head to suffocate him. He and Bruce were also electrocuted. Nuñez and Matres were hit with butts of assault rifles several times.

Nayve at the time of their arrest was a coordinator of Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (PISTON) in Cavite while Nunez and Matres were construction workers and Bruce was a utility vehicle driver.

The four were subjected to more interrogation that only stopped when human rights defenders found them at the Malabon District Jail in General Trias City.

Slow-pace of trial

The four were finally charged at Trece Martires City but their trial proceeded slowly due to several delays and rescheduling.

The four then petitioned the Supreme Court to transfer their trial to Taguig City, which was granted in 2019.

Even then, jail authorities in Camp Bagong Diwa claimed they were often unaware of trial schedules and did not receive subpoenas for the Cavite 4, further delaying their case. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic also delayed the proceedings.

Time to rebuild

But the 4 have finally walked free, albeit separately, their respective families eagerly waiting their release.

Bruce’s wife Rowena said that she and their children are happy to reunite with her husband. She said they suffered untold hardships in the past seven years as George was the only breadwinner of the family.

They also lost their home due to Taal Volcano’s eruption in January 2020 and appeal for help in rebuilding it now that George is free once more. #