By ALYSSA MAE CLARIN
MANILA– Media groups reiterated their demand for the immediate release of Filipino journalist Lady Ann Salem as she remains behind bars more than a week since a Mandaluyong court dismissed the charges against her.
On Feb. 5, Judge Monique Quisumbing-Ignacio of the Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court Branch 209 dismissed the illegal possession of firearms and explosives charges against Salem and labor union organizer Rodrigo Esparago. In a 10-page order, the court declared the search warrant used during Salem and Esparago’s arrest as null and void, hence rendering the explosives and firearms found in their residence inadmissible as evidence.
Salem’s lawyers from the Public Interest Law Center stated that the issuance of a release order should be automatic since the court ruling was based on the “evidence and merits of the case.” However, the Philippine police are adamant about keeping Salem and Esporago detained, with the opposition they filed in response to Salem’s urgent petition to be released.
In a statement, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said there are very obvious attempts of blocking Salem’s and Esporago’s freedom. Philippine authorities, they said, continue to bend the law in their favor.
“If anything, the judgment should be more than enough reason to not only release Icy and Rodrigo but also hold accountable each and everyone involved,” said the NUJP.
Meanwhile, the Philippine chapter of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television said attempts to stop Salem’s impending release is meant to “keep her from returning to the folds of journalism and do what she does best – speaking truth to power.”
“We, Filipino women journalists and communicators, urge the Mandaluyong court to look into Salem’s urgent motion for release,” said IAWRT Philippines’ Executive Board in a statement, “We want to see our dear Icy free at last.”