QC court acquits 'tokhang' survivor of assault raps

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 17) A Quezon City court has cleared a drug war survivor of an assault charge filed against him during the early period of the controversial campaign in 2016.

In its 18-page decision dated March 3 but released to the media on Friday, the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court said the prosecution failed to establish the necessary evidence against Efren Morillo, whom the police claimed fought back during their "Oplan Tokhang" raid.

"The court is convinced that the prosecution failed to establish that all of the aforementioned elements of direct assault are attendant in this case," the court's ruling read.

"The prosecution did not establish with moral certainty that Morillo assaulted, attacked, and employed personal violence or intimidation on the police operatives," it added.

Morillo and the police officers had contradicting stories of what happened during the anti-drug operation that took place in August of that year.

According to the police, Morillo and his group were the ones who fired their guns first, prompting his group to shoot back.

But Morillo maintained his innocence.

The defendant said he played dead after being shot by the operatives. He testified overhearing a cop saying, "Tumawag na kayo ng SOCO. Sabihin nanlaban ang mga yan. Iwanan ang ebidensya."

[Translation: Call the SOCO. Tell them they fought back. Leave the evidence.]

The court noted that upon cross examination, witnesses were not able to provide concrete evidence that Morillo had actually fired his gun.

"Morillo was not personally seen by prosecution witnesses to be the person who fired a gun at the police operatives. Neither did the prosecution establish that the said firearm was owned by [the] accused," it stressed.

The tribunal also reported that the paraffin test conducted on Morillo yielded a negative result — bolstering the defense's claim that he had no firearm and did not shoot at the operatives.

Morillo and his legal team welcomed the decision.

"It is a beacon of light for those whose hopes have been dimmed and distorted by the pro forma, lawless, and soulless "nanlaban" narrative. This decision is proof that truth will prevail and lives on," the Center for International Law said in a statement.