“If all the search warrants issued by Judge Burgos-Villavert from No. 5944 to No. 5953 are offices and homes of members of people’s and human rights organizations, then we are looking at more raids in the coming hours or days.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — Human rights alliance Karapatan warned of more raids and arrests of activists in the coming hours or days.
In a Facebook post, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said that at least ten search warrants were issued by Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 89 Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert on October 30. Four of these warrants have been served so far.
Tondo, Manila – Search Warrant No. 5944
Paco, Manila – Search Warrant No. 5947
Escalante City, Negros Occidental – Search Warrant No. 5949
Bacolod City – Search Warrant No. 5953
“If all the search warrants issued by Judge Burgos-Villavert from No. 5944 to No. 5953 are offices and homes of members of people’s and human rights organizations, then we are looking at more raids in the coming hours or days,” Palabay noted.
Earlier today, policemen raided the office of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Manila in Tondo, Manila. Three activists were arrested and brought to the Manila Police District.
In a report, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Acting Director Brig. Gen. Debold Sinas said the Philippine National Police has been monitoring leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in Metro Manila. Sinas even units from the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters are monitoring these personalities in coordination with the military’s Joint Task Force-NCR.
Villavert has been criticized for issuing what Karapatan called as “copy-paste” search warrants that have led to the arrest of 57 activists in Negros island and five activists in Metro Manila.
Karapatan noted that Villavert was also the judge who issued warrants for the arrest of National Democratic Front peace consultants Vicente Ladlad, Rey Casambre, Estrelita Suaybaguio, Alexander and Winona Birondo, and Villamor couple.
In a statement, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) also questioned Villavert’s actions.
Section 12 authorizes Executive Judges of Regional Trial Courts of Manila and Quezon City – as an exception to the general rule that it must be the court within whose territorial jurisdiction a crime was committed – to act upon applications filed by the police for search warrants involving, among others, illegal possession of firearms and ammunitions.
The same circular requires that such applications shall be personally endorsed by the heads of such agencies. The Executive Judges are also required to keep a special docket book listing the details of the applications and the results of the searches and seizures made pursuant to the warrants issued.
In this light, NUPL raised the following questions:
– Who, in the PNP, if any, endorsed the application for search warrant?
– Did the OIC PNP Chief personally endorse the application for search warrant?
– What was the basis, if any, of the application for search warrant to establish probable cause, considering serious and consistent assertions that the firearms and explosives were casually planted during the search?
– What was the basis of the honorable judge to grant the application and issue the search warrant?
– Did the honorable judge hear any witness, ask and document searching questions to personally determine the existence of probable cause as mandated by the Constitution and the Rules of Criminal Procedure?
– What was the reason behind and what really transpired during the meeting between the honorable judge and the police chief the day before the issuance of the warrant?
– Will the honorable judge make available at the proper forum and time the “special docket book,” which contains the details of the application for purposes of transparency and scrutiny?
– Why was there a need to apply for a search warrant in a faraway court when the same can be procured in a closer regional court without compromising secrecy and service of the warrant?
– Why is there seemingly a pattern to issue search warrants against political dissenters and critical groups from one and the exactly the same judge even if legally allowable?
“As the perceived bastion of fairness and justice, the Judiciary must relentlessly maintain its independence against actual or perceived interference and pressure exerted by other government branches. The bench and its members must not let themselves be used, or appear to be used, wittingly or unwittingly, as tools or minions of political persecution,” the NUPL said.