By PANAY TODAY
ILOILO City – A Capiz court granted on June 15 the appeal to render the six search warrants used in the bloody December raid as invalid and declared the purported evidence against the arrested indigenous peoples as inadmissible.
The serving of the search warrant on December 30, 2020 led to the killing of nine Tumandok leaders and members and the arrests of 16 others.
The Mambusao Regional Trial Court Branch 21 granted the motions to quash the search warrants filed by six arrested Tumandok leaders and members, citing the failure to “satisfy the constitutional requirement of definiteness or particularity.”
The warrant that was invalidated was issued by a co-equal trial court, penned by Jose Lorenzo R. Dela Rosa, executive judge of the Manila Trial Court.
This power granted to the executive judges of Manila and Quezon City to issue warrants for cases outside their jurisdiction was recently revoked by the Supreme Court.
Further, the RTC Mambusao ordered that “all evidence obtained during the illegal search are all ordered suppresses and for all intents and purposes, in any and all legal proceedings, the said obtained evidence are all inadmissible as evidence against the accused.”
Msgr. Meliton Oso, director of the Jaro Archdiocesan Social Action Center and lead convenor of the Iloilo Council for Ecumenism welcomed the court’s decision.
Of the 16 arrested, eight pleaded guilty for a lesser offense after they met with then police chief Debold Sinas in a restaurant in Oton, Iloilo last April. Another proceeded with the trial, per advice of his former lawyer.
One plea seeking to invalidate the search warrant is still awaiting the court’s decision.
As of this writing, two are still detained.
Search warrant quashed again
Human rights activists said this is the beginning of their quest for justice.
“We must not forget that Duterte should be held accountable for all his crimes against the people,” said Crimson Labinghisa of the Defend Panay Network.
In February, a Mandaluyong court also invalidated a search warrant, issued by Quezon City RTC Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert against journalist Lady Ann Salem and labor activist Rodrigo Esparago on December 10, 2020.
In the same month, a Bacolod court nullified a separate search warrant, also issued by Judge Villavert, which was used in a 2019 raid that led to the arrest of 42 activists.
Despite these legal victories, the execution and arrest of activists through the enforcement of search warrants continued, said the network.
John Ian Alenciaga, also of Defend Panay Network, lauded the high court’s new guidelines, adding that the bloody December 30 massacre should have never happened.
“With these developments, we enjoin the Tumandok people in their struggle to fully attain justice by holding the judges, the armed forces, and Duterte accountable to the Tumandok and the Filipino people,” Alenciaga quipped.
“There is still hope. With our collective action, we will make sure that justice will be served to our leaders and members and to those who are still in the dark as the militarization continues and even intensifies in select upland villages destroying the unity and organization of the Tumandok,” said Berna Castor, the group’s secretary general.