Tarlac court dismisses charges vs. Tinang farmers, land reform advocates

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 28) — A Tarlac court on Monday dismissed the criminal charges against 83 farmers and land reform advocates arrested during a "bungkalan" or land cultivation activity at Hacienda Tinang in Concepcion, Tarlac earlier this month.

Presiding Judge Antonio Pangan of the 2nd Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Capas-Bamban-Concepcion issued an order granting the motion to quash the illegal assembly and malicious mischief charges against the so-called Tinang 83.

On June 9, policemen arrested these farmers, land reform advocates and volunteers who took part in a land cultivation activity related to a land dispute in Hacienda Tinang. 

READ:PNP: No human rights violations during operations in Hacienda Tinang

READ:Arrested farmers, advocates in Tarlac eye countersuit vs police

“The Information for illegal assembly in Criminal Case No. 087-22 is hereby quashed/dismissed for being duplicitous, and for failure to allege the essential facts constituting the particular kinds of illegal assembly falling under the jurisdiction of the first level court,” the court order said.

According to the June 10 resolution of the investigating prosecutor, there was sufficient evidence to hold the respondents for the crime of illegal assembly because they attended a meeting armed and with the purpose of committing a crime. But the court said the responding police officers failed to confiscate, nor present to the court, any firearm from any of the accused.

The court also dismissed the information for malicious mischief on the ground that “the facts charged do not constitute an offense; the third element of malicious mischief was not alleged therein; and (the) court has no jurisdiction over the subject matter of the case (agrarian reform).”

The court also referred the case to the Department of Agrarian Reform since the farmers being accused are beneficiaries of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas lauded the court “for recognizing the utter baselessness of the charges against the farmer-beneficiaries and their supporters.”

KMP also said the Tinang farmers’ struggle continues “as their formal installation as beneficiaries remain undone.”

“The threat of additional schemes also remains as (Capas Mayor-elect) Noel Villanueva and his minions desperately cling onto the Tinang farmers' land,” the KMP added. “Moreover, the unlawful conduct of state agents led by OIC PNP Reynold Concepcion Chief Macabitas and Acting Provincial Prosecutor Mae Montefalco must not be left without consequences.”