Courts should stand for truth – rights group

In a statement, Karapatan said that a thorough review of the application of search warrants used by the police to conduct simultaneous raids on December 10 last year “is a matter of justice.”

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Reconsider the denial of the motion to quash the search warrant against trade unionist Joel Demate.

This is the demand of human rights group Karapatan after a local court denied the appeal filed by Demate on February 22.

In a statement, Karapatan said that a thorough review of the application of search warrants used by the police to conduct simultaneous raids on December 10 last year “is a matter of justice.”

They believe that this was not done in the case of Demate.

Last April 22, the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) received an order from the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 50 junking their motion to quash the search warrant and to suppress evidence produced using the said warrant.

The said search warrant in question was issued by Quezon City RTC Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert. The warrant was used in a raid to arrest six activists and one journalist, including Demate.

NUPL said that Demate asserted in his motion, “that the search warrant issued against him is without probable cause. The records of the search warrant proceedings indicate that Villavert failed to propound searching questions to the police witnesses and their informant and that she granted the application despite glaring inconsistencies in their testimonies.”

The warrant is also void for being a general warrant, they added, “as it failed to describe the laptop and cellphone to be seized from his home with sufficient particularity.”

“As a result, the police embarked in a fishing expedition, seizing any and all gadgets they could find in the house, including his daughter’s laptop computer. He further said that the service of the warrant is not a search and seizure operation, but one of the instances where the police planted evidence to incriminate an activist for fabricated crimes,” NUPL said.

The groups pointed out that while the Manila court refused to thoroughly review the warrant, other courts have already declared the warrant null and void.

On February 5, Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court Branch 209 dismissed illegal possession of firearms and explosives charges against Manila Today editor Lady Ann Salem and trade unionist Rodrigo Esperago by declaring the search warrant null and void.

Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan said the dismissal of the case against Salem and Esparago had “already exposed the utter lack of credibility of the testimonies of these so-called informants, which the police used to apply for search warrants — the same informants who also testified against Joel Demate.”

Palabay stressed that Judge Monique Quisumbing-Ignacio’s decision has “strongly emphasized the ‘numerous inconsistencies and contradictions’ of the testimonies of these witnesses, such that they ‘cannot be given full faith and credence.’”

Questionable warrants

This is not the first time for Villavert to issue defective warrants found questionable by her peers.

A local court in Bacolod City granted motions to quash warrants and suppress evidence filed by human rights defenders Karina Mae De La Cerna, Cherryl Catalogo, and John Milton Lozande on February 18.

Villavert issued the search warrant against these rights defenders leading to their arrest on October 31, 2019.

In addition, she was also the judge who issued search warrants against 57 red-tagged activists in Negros Island and five activists in Metro Manila in 2019.

She also issued the controversial arrest warrants against National Democratic Front peace consultants Vicente Ladlad, Rey Casambre, Estrelita Suaybaguio, Alexander and Winona Birondo, and Villamor couple.

Courts should stand for truth

Palabay calls on courts to stand for truth and give just rulings without delay.

“Every single day that people are behind bars on falsified charges is a brazen form of injustice,” Palabay said, adding that the Manila RTC should “reconsider its decision and to exercise prudence so that justice is genuinely dispensed and served.”

She said that the group reasserts their call for the freedom of Joel Demate and all political prisoners, for the dropping of trumped-up charges against them, and to “stop the attacks on unionists and human rights defenders in the Philippines.”

Meanwhile, the NUPL said they “will move for the reconsideration of the court order and pursue available legal remedies to vindicate Demate and secure his liberty.” (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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