“We laud the Honorable Court’s decision to side with the truth and justice. This shows that such ridiculous charges against Pastor Balucio and other church workers in similar predicaments are fabricated and meant to harass.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) lauded the dismissal of trumped-up charges against church leader Pastor Dan Balucio.
“We laud the Honorable Court’s decision to side with the truth and justice. This shows that such ridiculous charges against Pastor Balucio and other church workers in similar predicaments are fabricated and meant to harass,” said NCCP General Secretary Bishop Reuel Norman O. Marigza in a statement.
Balucio is the coordinator of Andurog Mayon, NCCP’s ecumenical partner in humanitarian response operations in the Bicol region.
In a decision dated Aug. 4, Presiding Judge Maria Theresa San Juan-Loquillano of the Regional Trial Court Legazpi City Branch 10 granted Balucio’s motion to quash the search warrant used during the raid of his home on May 2 in Albay.
Loquillano pointed out that the “applicant for the issuance of search warrant had no personal knowledge about the existence and the material allegations and proof of the supposed crime that he is describing in his own application for search warrant.”
“On this score alone, the application for search warrant ought to have been dismissed for lack of probable cause,” Loquillano said.
Balucio, also the spokesperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Bicol, was arrested on the same day authorities also raided the house and arrested 20-year-old youth activist Maria Jesusa “Sasah” Sta. Rosa in Camarines Sur. Sta. Rosa is the spokesperson of Jovenes Anakbayan.
Legazpi City RTC Vice Executive Judge Edgar Armes issued the search warrant used to raid Balucio’s home and Sta. Rosa’s residence.
Armes issued the warrant based on the accounts of three witnesses who accused Balucio of selling firearms. However, Loquillano has noted several inconsistencies in the account of witnesses who are policemen and a tipster.
Loquillano said that “once application for the search warrant lacks the element of personal knowledge by the applicant and his witnesses upon which the issuance of a search may be justified, any search warrant is deemed as not based on probable cause and should be considered as a nullity, its issuance being arbitrary.”
Investigate judges issuing questionable warrants
Meanwhile, Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan, once again called on the Supreme Court “to take steps to investigate members of the judiciary who have been involved in the issuances of such questionable search warrants, including Quezon City Regional Trial Court Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert and Manila Regional Trial Court Executive Judge Jose Lorenzo dela Rosa.”
Villavert issued search warrants to raid the residences of the six activists and one journalist, Manila Today editor Lady Ann Salem, collectively called #HRDay7 on Dec. 10, 2020. She also issued other search warrants which resulted in the arrests of other activists such as Reina Mae Nasino.
Dela Rosa and other Manila RTC executive judges, meanwhile, issued search warrants used in the Bloody Sunday incidents on March 7.
Palabay said in a statement that the decision of Albay court “follows similar decisions by courts in Mandaluyong City, Batangas, Laguna, Bacolod City and Capiz, essentially questioning the issuances of search warrants of other courts and upholding the basic right to due process of the activists arrested in these communities.”
“The pattern of the police’s use of search warrants, planting evidence and effecting the arbitrary arrests and detention of individuals like Pastor Dan Balucio is a glaring form of weaponization of the judiciary against activists and dissenters,” Palabay said.
She also said that police and military officials who filed such complaints, conducted and ordered these operations should be held accountable as it resulted in the violation of the human rights defenders’ rights against arbitrary or illegal arrests and detention, their rights to due process and privacy within their homes or offices.