THE Kidapawan municipal trial court has postponed the arraignment of the farmers arrested during the violent clash with policemen last April 1, according to Public Attorney’s Office chief Persida Rueda-Acosta.
In an interview on Friday, Acosta said MTC Judge Rebecca de Leon granted their appeal on their motion to defer proceedings on the cases for direct assault, frustrated murder and illegal assembly against 70 detained farmers.
She said the arraignment of the farmers was originally set last Thursday, and the court initially denied their plea. But upon appeal, the MTC has reconsidered its ruling and reset the hearing to April 25.
In arraignment proceedings, the arrested farmers will be informed of criminal charges against them and will be asked to submit to the court their plea of either “guilty” or “not guilty.”
PAO lawyers who served as counsels for the 52 of the detained farmers earlier also filed a motion to quash seeking outright dismissal of the cases due to questionable arrest and lack of probable cause, which the trial court has rejected.
They filed an appeal, which the MTC is also set to resolve in the next hearing.
Acosta said that 23 of their clients have already been released as of yesterday after the court waived its requirement for the accused to present identification cards or documents for their bail.
“The court waived the ID requirement and accepted the certification of a priest as proof of residency of the farmers in their barangays,” she said.
But the Acosta lamented that the processing for the release of the other farmers have been stalled due to rotating brownout in the city.
“If the processing of the release orders will not be finished (Friday), the remaining farmers will have to wait until Monday,” she said.
Besides the 52 farmers represented by local PAO lawyers, there are about 20 others who are also detained and represented by volunteer Integrated Bar of the Philippines and private lawyers.
Last Monday, government prosecutors recommended P12,000 bail for each farmer and even opposed a move to lower the bail of the detained farmers to just P2,000 each. They said such amount was too low and that the farmers could easily jump bail.
In the bail hearing last Tuesday, the court lowered the bail to P6,000.
The farmers from the towns of Arakan, Antipas, President Roxas and Magpet were asking for food assistance in the wake of the effects of drought in Kidapawan City. But the mass action turned into a violent dispersal that led to the death of two farmers and injured several others.
The protesters earlier said they plan to file charges of multiple murder, serious physical injuries, and violation of human rights.
The IBP has joined calls for the government to investigate and prosecute the authorities liable for the casualties and injuries during the violent dispersal.