A Rizal court has sentenced a trade union activist to eight to 14 years in prison for illegal possession of firearms. Promptly, a human rights group described it as a "wrongful conviction."
The San Mateo, Rizal Regional Trial Court Branch 76 found Marklen Maojo Maga guilty of violating the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act and ordered his commitment to the New Bilibid Prison, a decision promulgated Monday showed.
Police arrested Maga, the son-in-law of peace consultant Rafael Baylosis, on Feb. 22, 2018 on the strength of an arrest warrant for murder and allegedly found on him a PARA 1911 caliber .45 pistol loaded with seven bullets.
Maga claimed during trial that the gun was planted evidence. He told the court he was merely playing basketball before he was "cornered" by at least 10 armed men, arrested, and brought to Camp Crame.
The Kilusang Mayo Uno organizer further alleged it was impossible for him to possess the backpack where the gun was allegedly found because the bag was hanging on his bicycle, which was parked near the basketball court.
Unconvinced, the court said: "If the bag was nowhere near the accused before the arrest, the police officers could not have confiscated it. The bag has no differentiating marks which would identify it with the accused. The police officers were only able to know that it belonged to the accused because the latter tried to run away with the bag as they went near him."
The court also said Maga admitted he has no license for possessing a firearm, and that a certification from the Philippine National Police shows he is unauthorized to carry any firearm.
"With the presentation of the loaded PARA 1911 .45 caliber firearm coupled with the absence of any license on the part of accused Maga to possess the said pistol, he is liable under Section 28(e) of R.A. 10591," the court ruled.
Human rights watchdog Karapatan condemned the "wrongful" conviction.
"We firmly stand against the weaponization of the law and the courts to politically persecute activists. Maga’s case should have been dismissed, and his false conviction should be overturned," Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said in a statement.
"Maoj is a trade union activist. He is not a criminal, he is not a terrorist. This decision furthers the injustice inflicted on Maoj and his family, and it puts our entire justice system to shame," she added. — RSJ, GMA News