Case dismissed: Political prisoner Evelyn Flauta released

She was grinning from ear-to-ear, her presence brightening up the usually busy atmosphere of Karapatan national office. On July 18, 2016, 37-year-old farm worker Evelyn Flauta was the face of freedom and hope.

Released political prisoner Evelyn Flauta

That day, Evelyn just ended a 14-month ordeal as a political prisoner, arrested with a questionable warrant, deprived of her right to call a family member or a lawyer. 

Mistaken identity

“Wala doon [sa warrant] yung pangalan ko,” she said, laughing. Anyone who saw her from a distance wouldn’t have guessed that she was reliving her and her partner Norberto Burrico’s arrest at 6 a.m., on April 23, 2015, in Barangay Niogan, Lemery, Batangas. Perhaps the absurdity of the circumstances then—combined with the relief that came with the dismissal of their charges—was enough reason to laugh and smile, after all.

“Noong hinuli kami, nakita kong nagpupulong yung nanghuli sa amin kung alin doon sa mga nakahilerang pangalan (sa warrant) ang i-aangkop sa amin,” she continued.

While her warrant did not bear her name, it sealed her fate for over a year.  

“Ipinakita lang nila sa akin ‘yung warrant, hindi pinabasa,” she said. “Itinuro lang nila sa akin yung in-encircle na pangalan doon sa mga nakahilerang iyon.”

Accused of being the same person as a certain “alias Eldi,” she was charged with robbery with multiple homicide and frustrated homicide, three counts of murder and illegal possession of explosives.

“Patayin niyo na lang ako”

Evelyn, however, was given a way out. The people who arrested her, joint forces of Special Action Force (SAF) and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippines National Police (CIDG-PNP), asked her to testify in court against certain individuals.

“Pakakawalan daw nila ako basta magte-testify ako [laban sa] kung sino sino,” she shared. But she stood her ground.

“Patayin niyo na lang ako sir,” she recalled telling them, “at ikulong niyo na lang ako dahil hindi ako marunong magsinungaling sa korte. Ayokong magsinungaling.”

Despite her ordeal, Evelyn feels relieved and happy over the court decision to dismiss the charges filed against her.

“Siguro sila naman ay naniniwala rin sa makatarungan at makataong pagtrato sa ganitong mga kaso,” she said, referring to the decision. “Alam naman nila ‘yung mga pinagmulan ng kaso at paano yun. Kahit sila sumasang-ayon sila doon sa puntong void talaga yung warrant na inapply sa amin kung bakit kami dere-derestong ikinulong.”

Patriots, not criminals

Over 500 political prisoners are still in detention all over the country. After political prisoners’ years of missed opportunities and being robbed of their potential to become productive citizens, many expect that newly-inaugurated President Rodrigo Duterte will make good on his promise to release political prisoners.

As of this writing, her partner Norberto, whose charges were also dismissed, is still waiting for the official documents that would finalize his release. Evelyn, meanwhile, implores President Duterte to release other political prisoners and to stop the persecution of activists.

“Huwag payagan na kasuhan ng criminal cases yung mga lumalaban para sa bayan,” she requested. “’Yung mga patriyotiko, yung mga makabayang organisasyon, huwag isali sa mga kriminal. Dapat palayain sila para mas makatulong pa sila sa bayan.”