Stand with NAPC Secretary Liza Maza. End political persecution.
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We are individuals from different fields, professions, and political persuasions who are united by our common commitment to justice, fairness, and the rule of law. We are not members of the Makabayan bloc, but we consider it our social duty to express our support for Secretary Liza Maza and her colleagues Satur Ocampo, Rafael Mariano, and Teddy Casiño who all served at some point in government either as members of the Duterte Cabinet or as party-list representatives.
We consider the recent issuance of warrants of arrest (with no bail recommended) against Secretary Maza and her colleagues by RTC Palayan City Judge Evelyn Atienza-Turla highly questionable. We base this on the following undisputed facts:
(1) The case started in 2006, when the PNP initiated murder charges against them.
(2) Despite the failure of the PNP to present the alleged witnesses against Secretary Maza and her colleagues before the panel of investigating prosecutors, the panel found probable cause to file charges against them in court. Three cases were filed in court in 2008: two murder cases in RTC Palayan City and one kidnapping with murder case in RTC Guimba, Nueva Ecija.
(3) Also in 2008, RTC Palayan City Judge Evelyn Atienza-Turla set aside the resolution finding probable cause against Secretary Maza and her colleagues in the two murder cases and directed the conduct of another preliminary investigation. According to Judge Turla, the supposed principal witnesses against Secretary Maza and others did not appear before the panel of investigating prosecutors. They also failed to subscribe and swear to their supposed affidavits before the panel as required by law. Judge Turla concluded in her 2008 Order that “the Court cannot accept the panel of prosecutors’ assertion of having found probable cause by merely relying on the ‘unsubscribed’ affidavits of the witnesses for the prosecution.” Another judge, of the RTC Guimba, dismissed the case of kidnapping with murder for lack of probable cause.
(4) Secretary Maza and the others questioned before the Supreme Court the 2008 Order of Judge Turla directing the conduct of another preliminary investigation instead of dismissing the cases of murder for lack of probable cause. In February 2017, the Supreme Court directed Judge Turla to resolve the issue of probable cause.
(5) On July 11, 2018, Judge Turla issued an Order finding probable cause against Secretary Maza and her colleagues for murder and directing the issuance of warrants of arrest against them. The Order finding probable cause is based on the same evidence – supposed affidavits of alleged witnesses who failed to appear and subscribe and swear to those affidavits during the preliminary investigation – which Judge Turla herself declared unacceptable to establish probable cause in 2008. Judge Turla did not explain in her July 11, 2018 Order the reason for her ruling.
This irregular and complete judicial turnaround and its timing, given recent political developments, are alarming to say the least. At a time when NAPC’s work is gaining headway, which includes the articulation of a clear anti-poverty policy framework currently being disseminated and discussed across various sectors, the warrant of arrest against Secretary Maza effectively puts the brakes on this laudable process.
Some of us have worked with Secretary Maza in her capacity as Lead Convenor of the National Anti-Poverty Commission. Some of us have been involved in the good programs she has initiated. We have seen how she has tirelessly worked to bring about meaningful reforms in government policies and programs. We see this recent development as a threat to Secretary Maza’s continued service to our people toward ensuring that the government fulfills its primary duty to eradicate poverty.
We join the calls of other groups for the Duterte Administration to ensure that the rights of Secretary Maza and her colleagues are genuinely protected at all times. We call on the judiciary to ensure that they are given the justice they deserve with the utmost independence and impartiality in accordance with the rule of law, free from any political motivation or influence. #
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