DAVAO CITY – A church worker and a farmer who were recently cleared of the ambush of Gingoog City Mayor Ruthie Guingona are facing a new set of criminal charges, extending their time in detention, the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) said on Monday, January 25.

The RMP said Joel Yagao, a lay co-worker, remains in jail, this time to face additional murder cases in Claveria, Misamis Oriental.

Similarly, Modesto Bernas, a member of a farmer association, is facing new charges that link him to an encounter between the New People’s Army (NPA) and Armed Forces of the Philippines in Alagatan, Gingoog City in July 2015.

But Sister Famita Somogod, RMP coordinator in Northern Mindanao, insisted that “at that time, Bernas was already in jail.”

“For lack of a concrete person they could arrest for the ambush, they turned on civilian community workers,” she said.

Yagao and Bernas were among the accused to be responsible behind an New People’s Army-led attack at Misamis aimed to kill the mother of Senator Teofisto Guingona III. The mayor, however, sustained wounds in the arms and feet, and killed two of the mayor’s bodyguards.

The NPA denied that it was an attack and apologized to the Guingonas for hurting the mayor, saying they only acted in self defense as it was her escorts that fired first.

In a Gingoog Regional Trial Court Branch 43 ruling, the two, including another farmer Reynaldo Gundaya, are cleared of the charges due to the insufficient evidence presented by a lone witness whose “credibility as a witness is put in issue.”

This development would have been a victory for the church-based organization, who petitioned President Benigno Aquino III last year to release one of the suspects. An online petition was mounted earlier to free Yagao, whom they described as to be “actively working on community-based land campaigns for more than five years in the eastern municipalities of Misamis Oriental.”

“That is how incompetent our law enforcers are. They go after the defenseless because they are incompetent against those who have arms to fight them,” said Somogod. (davaotoday.com)

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