Kin urge SC to release union organizers, decry violation of rights

Relatives and friends of the seven human rights defenders arrested on Dec. 10 call for the immediate release of their loved ones in a press conference, Dec. 14 at the Commission on Human Rights. (Photo by RVO/Bulatlat)

Relatives of Dennise Velasco and Joel Demate asserted that the “issuance of the search warrants was tainted with infirmities,” and the implementation of the search warrant “is in violation of established rules of procedure and in gross derogation of their constitutional rights.”


MANILA – Relatives of two labor organizers arrested on Human Rights Day called on the high court to release their loved ones, challenging the legality of their kin’s arrests.

In separate petitions for habeas corpus filed with the Supreme Court, Dec. 17, relatives of Dennise Velasco and Joel Demate asserted that the “issuance of the search warrants was tainted with infirmities,” and the implementation of the search warrant “is in violation of established rules of procedure and in gross derogation of their constitutional rights.”

Both Velasco and Demate were arrested in the early morning of Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day during simultaneous police raids in four different places in Manila. Quezon City and Mandaluyong City. Also arrested that day were labor organizers Mark Ryan Cruz, Romina Astudillo, Jaymie Gregorio and Rodrigo Esparago and Manila Today editor Lady Ann Salem. The search warrants were issued by Quezon City Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert.

The petition noted the irregularities on the conduct of the search, and the violation of constitutional rights of Velasco and Demate against unreasonable searches and seizures.

‘Planting of evidence’

Both petitions cite how elements of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) “neutralized” the occupants of the two houses while they conducted the search without any witnesses.

It was around 2:00 a.m. when the law enforcers barged in at the residence of Demate in Sta. Ana, Manila. He and his daughter Cielo were led outside of their house while CIDG personnel were inside. The police read the search warrant to Demate but Demate was not allowed to read it. His daughter insisted on getting inside the house to call their lawyer but she was not allowed to do so.

Demate’s daughter questioned the conduct of the operation, citing the lack of witnesses while the police were searching their house. The police then called representatives from the barangay that came after 20 minutes. It was only then that they were allowed to go inside the house “to witness the so-called search this time in their presence” and the representatives from the barangay.

They were taken to the second floor and were shocked to see several firearms and a grenade. According to the petition, the alleged firearms were obviously planted as the police had “ample opportunity to place the said objects inside the house” as he and his daughter were immediately removed inside the house against their will.

It was also around 2:00 a.m. when law enforcers forcibly entered the house of Velasco in Fairview, Quezon City. Velasco, his wife and three other housemates were ordered to leave their rooms and to lie down with face on the floor, their hands were tied with plastic cords. The police went to the second floor and went inside the three rooms. Later on, the occupants of the house were allowed to sit and told to wait for almost an hour. They were also not allowed to call their lawyers and to see the search warrant. When officials from the barangay came, they proceeded to the second floor.

A few minutes later, a CIDG personnel came down with a rifle and a bag containing a grenade, handgun and ammunition. The police claimed that these were taken from the room of Velasco and his wife Diane.

One cellular phone, which does not belong to any of the occupants, and a fake ID were also laid on the table, according to Velasco’s wife.

Both petitions cited the violation of Section 2 of Republic Act 7438 or Rights of Arrested and Detained Persons which provides that “any person arrested, detained or under custodial investigation shall at all times be assisted by counsel.”

Both Demate and Velasco were not furnished copies of the search warrants, and other documents related to their arrests even during inquest. In the case of Velasco, police denied Velasco’s request to wait for the lawyer of his choice before he was subjected to inquest.

Revisit old doctrines

In asserting their clients’ constitutional rights, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) maintained that the habeas corpus must provide a speedy and effectual relief to persons who are illegally detained.

The NUPL is urging the high court to revisit the Ilagan v. Enrile doctrine, which states that the petition for the writ of habeas corpus is moot after the filing of charges against arrested individuals before the court. The NUPL maintained that the Ilagan doctrine should not be used “to shield human rights abusers from judicial scrutiny.”

“Such arbitrary practices and performances should not be regularized. They are somehow assured of impunity, safe in the knowledge that their illegal acts will be deemed legalized by such filing. In the meantime, the victims will be deprived of any judicial recourse and restrained of liberty,” the petition read.

The NUPL hopes that the SC’s decision on the said petitions “will serve as a warning to state forces that from now on, the Ilagan doctrine will no longer insulate their human rights abuses from the strong arm of the law and will give judicial relief to future victims, notwithstanding the belated filing of criminal charges against them.” (

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