EXCLUSIVE: Mariano maintains innocence over murder allegation

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FILE. Former Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano maintained that he is innocent of the murder charges filed against him and three other former partylist representatives in a Palayan City court.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 7) — Former Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano maintained that he is innocent of the murder charges filed against him and three other former partylist representatives in a Palayan City court.

In an exclusive interview with CNN Philippines, Mariano said he would not surrender to authorities, as he believes it's an injustice to be jailed for a crime he did not commit.

"Buong katapatan ko pong sinasabi sa inyo na wala akong nararamdamang pangamba o pagkaligalig kasi po tanging sa paglahok sa seryosong pakikibaka lalong-lalo na para sa karapatan ng magsasaka para sa lupa, para sa karapatan at kagalingan ng mamamayang Pilipino," he said.

[Translation: I honestly don't feel any fear, especially in joining serious fights for the rights of farmers to land ownership, for the rights and welfare of the Filipino people.]

Mariano, Anti-poverty Commission Secretary Liza Maza, and former Bayan Muna Representatives Teddy Casiño and Satur Ocampo are facing murder charges for the death of two members of rival partylist Akbayan--Jimmy Peralta and Carlito Bayudang in 2001 and 2004 respectively.

Mariano insisted their innocence in the crime, saying he was personally busy with his role as the chairperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan or BAYAN and founding Anakpawis Partylist when the two incidents happened.

"Ako po at aking co-accused na nabanggit ay malinis ang kamay, malinis ang konsensya. Wala po kaming dapat panagutan sa nasabing gawa-gawang kaso," he said.

[Translation: My co-accused and I have clean hands, clear conscience. We should not be held liable for the case that was only made up.]

Authorities said they are now tracking down the whereabouts of four former partylist representatives.

Philippine National Police Chief Oscar Albayalde is not discounting the possibility that the communist armed group New Peoples Army is coddling the accused.

"Pwede yon, pwede rin namang they're on their own eh hindi natin masabi kasi as of this time wala pa tayong info on that," Albayalde said.

[Translation: That's possible, or they can be on their own. We really can't tell because as of this time there are no information yet.]

A group of so-called "Anti-Crime Crusaders" raised a million pesos bounty for the information that will lead to their arrest. Lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, who serves as counsel for the group, denies that former President and now Speaker of the House Gloria Macapagal Arroyo funded the bounty.

READ: Group offers ₱1-million bounty for arrest of anti-poverty chief, 3 ex-solons

The lawyer of four former solons, Atty. Rachel Pastores, said the bounty was "bizarre and unsettling".

Mariano said they are participating in the legal proceedings through their lawyers.

A proof, he added, is the motion for reconsideration that they filed before the court.

In the said motion, the lawmakers ask the court to dismiss the case and quash the warrant of arrest against them.

"Malakas po ang aking paniniwala at pananalig na ang aming Motion for Reconsideration ay papanigan ng husgado at matutuldukan, mapapawalang-bisa o madi-dismiss ang gawa-gawang kaso laban sa amin at kapanabay ang pagbawi ng warrants of arrest laban sa amin," Mariano said.

[Translation: I strongly believe that justice will side with us, that the fabricated case will be dismissed and the warrant of arrest against us will be retracted.]

While Mariano believes that this is a case of political persecution, he asserted that he would not back down and would continue his advocacies, even if authorities are hunting him down.