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Seven suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels faced pre-trial on Monday before Branch 51 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC).

Domingo Ritas, also known as Ka Tino, Moske, and Susan; Joelito Tanilon, better known as Ka Jaba, Jebar, Blade, and Barie; Glendhyl Malabanan, alias Ka Meldy, Marjo, Michelle and Roxanne; Jenny Ann Bautista, known as Ka Helen, Nada, and Maro; Ronces Paragoso, known as Ka Rosa and Aiza; Bener Rimbuwan, alias Ka Joebert, Junard, Gringo, and Bata; and Awing Lumpat, also known as Ka Niko and Gitna, dubbed as #Palawan7, are facing charges for illegal possession of firearms (Republic Act 10591) and illegal possession of explosive devices (Republic Act 9516).

The pre-trial, which was presided by Judge Ambrosio de Luna, concluded early as the prosecution was unable to present all the pieces of evidence.

Lawyer Maria Sol Taule, legal counsel of Karapatan and the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) who was present in the pre-trial hearing, told Palawan News that De Luna chided the prosecution for its failure to present all the pieces of evidence.

“Medyo nagalit si judge dahil more than a month na nga and hindi pa ‘yon na-establish for presentation ng prosecution. They were supposed to bring all the [alleged] pieces of evidence na sinasabi nilang nakuha [from our clients],” Taule said.

Pieces of evidence include one caliber 9mm pistol (HS w/ serial # H81488) with two magazines loaded with live ammunition; rifle grenades; time fuse; blasting caps; improvised galvanometer; batteries; MK2 hand grenades; improvised hand grenade; several electronic gadgets (laptops and cell phones); assorted medicines; backpacks; hammocks; military/PNP and civilian clothes; subversive documents; NPA (New People’s Army) uniforms and NDF (National Democratic Front) flags.

Taule said that they intend to question the credibility of the evidence and cross-examine witnesses as part of their defense, following regular court proceedings.

Reacting on behalf of the prosecution team under the legal cluster of the Provincial Task Force-Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict (PTF-ELCAC), 3rd Marine Brigade commander Brig. Gen. Charlton Sean Gaerlan said Thursday also in an interview with Palawan News that what Taule said was not true.

“Hindi naman nagalit si judge. Hindi ganoon ang nangyari. Ang sabi sa legal cluster ng PTF-ELCAC ng prosecution team ay gusto lang ni judge na i-present nila ang kanilang witnesses, na dapat next time dalhin ‘yong mga ebidensya — kung baga hinihingi lang sa prosecutor ‘yong scheduling noong time na ‘yon,” Gaerlan said.

Gaerlan accused Karapatan of “misleading” the public by claiming that the prosecution team failed to present the pieces of evidence required.

He said the prosecution team did not expect that De Luna will ask for their evidence to be presented. However, he said it does not mean they are not ready to prove the guilt of the seven suspects.

“Hindi lang ini-expect na at that time ay hahanapin na ni judge. Hindi naman totoo ang sinasabi ng Karapatan, pangit naman na sabihin na nagalit si judge. Nililigaw lang nila ang isyu doon sa crime na ginawa ng mga suspek,” he said.

The seven suspected members of the leftist group were arrested on October 4 following an inter-agency law enforcement operation by the City Mobile Force Company (CMFC); City Intelligence Branch-Puerto Princesa City Police Office (CIB-PPCPO); Palawan Intelligence Branch-Palawan Police Provincial Office (PIB-PPPO); and Joint Intelligence Task Group (JITG)-West.