By ALYSSA MAE CLARIN
MANILA– The Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court Branch 209 issued a release order for Manila Today editor-in-chief Lady Ann Salem, and trade unionist Rodrigo Esparago today, March 5.
After almost three months of incarceration, Salem walked out of the Mandaluyong City Jail this afternoon.
“Some political prisoners remain in jail for a year, I am lucky I only stayed for three months,” Salem told the media.
In an online message, Salem thanked Judge Monique Quisumbing-Ignacio for “seeing the truth behind the fabricated charges” and all those who supported the campaign for her release.
Salem’s lawyers from the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) said the judge’s decision is “a breather in the midst of the continuing attacks against journalists and lawyers.”
Salem and Esparago were among the seven arrested during the simultaneous raids on Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day, last year.
The release order was an affirmation of an earlier order, declaring the search warrant used during their arrest as null and void.
“We hope that the other victims of the trumped-up charges resulting from the implementation of this void search warrant will be released from detention,” PILC said.
In a separate statement, alternative media outfit Manila Today said that while this decision is a cause of celebration, it does not dismiss the fact that press freedom and critical individuals and organizations are relentlessly being attacked.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines lauded Judge Quisumbing-Ignacio “for seeing through these attempts of breaking the law and rightly dismissing the charges against Salem and Esparago.”
The NUJP said that Salem’s late release and the prolonged detention of Frenchie Mae Cumpio in Tacloban City, is proof that the Duterte administration is not afraid to bend the law to stifle dissent.
Like Salem, Cumpio is facing fabricated charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. She was arrested on Feb. 7, 2020 during simultaneous police raids in Tacloban.
The NUJP said those behind the arrest and detention of Salem should be held liable.