Rights group decries appointment of judge who issued ‘copy-paste’ warrants


MANILA – Rubbing salt into the wound.

This is how human rights group Karapatan described President Rodrigo Duterte’s appointment of Vice Executive Judge Jose Lorenzo Dela Rosa as associate justice of the Court of Appeals on March 7 – exactly a year after warrants he issued were used in raids in the Southern Tagalog region that led to the killing of activists and arrest of others.

Read: Bloody Sunday | 5 activists dead, mass arrests in Southern Tagalog

The warrants issued by Dela Rosa led to the murder of activist Emmanuel “Manny” Asuncion as well as the arrest of Elizabeth Camoral and Esteban Mendoza during the Bloody Sunday raids on March 7, 2021 in Southern Tagalog.

It was also Dela Rosa who issued the search warrants that led to the killing of Tumanduk leader and barangay councilor Roy Giganto during the gruesome raids in indigenous Tumandok communities in December 2020.

Read: ‘I saw them shoot my husband’ – wife of slain Tumandok leader

“His promotion exactly a year after the Bloody Sunday raids is not merely impunity: it is rubbing salt on the wounds of those victimized by the search warrants he issued. It is a slap in the face of justice. It is a ‘reward’ from President Duterte himself for being one of his cloaked accomplices to State terror,” Karapatan Deputy Secretary General Roneo Clamor said in a statement.

Clamor further asserted that the warrants issued by Dela Rosa are bogus. For one, he said, the search warrants issued by Dela Rosa against the five Tumandok members were declared invalid by the court in July 2021.

Clamor added, “The Department of Justice’s recommending the filing of murder charges against the policemen involved in the raid that killed Asuncion are damning indictments of Judge Dela Rosa’s bogus search warrant factory — and he should likewise be subject to scrutiny along with those who implemented and executed the warrants in these deadly raids.”

“The hands Judge Dela Rosa used to sign these search warrants are tainted with blood, and he is culpable in the atrocities that happened during and because of the very warrants he issued,” Clamor added.

In the past years, the executive and vice executive judges of Quezon City and Manila regional trial courts had the power to issue warrants outside of their jurisdiction. The search warrants issued by judges like Dela Rosa of Manila and Quezon City Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert have been used to raid houses or offices of activists that led to their killing or if not, to their unjust arrest.

This has prompted rights advocates to call on the Supreme Court to institute reforms in the issuance of search warrants in March last year.

Read: After bloody Sunday, lawyers call for review of issuance of search warrants

As a response, in June last year, the SC issued Administrative Matter No. 21-06-08-SC setting rules on the use of body-worn cameras in the execution of warrants. The SC also removed the power provided to executive judges of Quezon City and Manila regional trial courts to issue search warrants that may be served anywhere in the country.

“Judges like Judge Dela Rosa — who use their courts and powers for judicial harassment and political persecution — should instead be investigated and held to account for their complicity in these killings and human rights violations and this murderous regime’s campaign of State terror,” Clamor said. (RTS, RVO) (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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