A court in the city of Olongapo north of Manila acquitted two indigenous people who were arrested last year for allegedly shooting at soldiers.
Japer Gurung and Junior Ramos, both members of the indigenous people group Aeta, were the first to be charged for violating Republic Act 11479 or the country’s Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
Gurung later claimed that he was tortured to admit that he and Ramos were members of the communist-led New Peoples’ Army.
The military denied Gurung’s allegation.
The Public Attorneys’ Office, which defended the two Aetas, said that the evidence presented by the prosecution against Gurung and Ramos was weak.
“After a careful examination of the records, the Court holds that the prosecution failed to discharge the burden of proving the identifies of the accused as the perpetrators of the crime,” read the court decision.
“Thus, the case for violation of this law against the accused must be dismissed,” added the court’s ruling.
The government’s National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict welcomed the court decision, saying it has “clearly shown that our justice system works, hears and decides cases fairly.”
The anti-communist task force then accused human rights groups of “exploiting” the case “to move for the invalidation of the Anti-Terrorism Law of 2020.”