7 YEARS LOST | Dumagat political prisoner acquitted of ‘trumped up charges’ – lawyers

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File image of a poster demanding freedom for Dumagat political prisoner Eddie Cruz, who was acquitted Friday of illegal firearms and explosives possession charges seven years after he was arrested and jailed for allegedly being a rebel.

MANILA, Philippines — A member of the Dumagat tribe arrested and jailed seven years ago for supposedly being a communist rebel has been acquitted of what his lawyers described as “trumped up charges” of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Judge Lily Villareal Biton of Regional Trial Court branch 77 in San Mateo, Rizal ruled Friday, October 6, that “mere speculations and probabilities cannot substitute for proof required to establish the guilt of an accused beyond reasonable doubt” as she cleared Eddie Cruz of the charges, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, which defended him in court, said in a statement.

Cruz, now 36, a farmer who occasionally worked as a tourist guide, was arrested on June 11, 2010 from his family’s house in Sitio Tuay, Barangay Puray in Rodriguez town.

Human rights groups said he was tortured and kept incommunicado for a week, and allowed access to counsel only in August of that year, after criminal charges had been filed against him based on “planted evidence.”

In June, Cruz lost his father but was not allowed leave by the court to pay his last respects.

While welcoming the acquittal of Cruz, NUPL secretary general Ephraim Cruz lamented that “the snail-paced justice system has failed Eddie” and challenged President Rodrigo Duterte to fulfill his “legal and moral obligation to release now unconditionally all political prisoners and drop all trumped up charges against them.”