Court ruling in favor of activists lauded | Inquirer News

Court ruling in favor of activists lauded

MANILA, Philippines — Leftist lawmakers on Saturday lauded the Mandaluyong City Regional Trial Court (RTC) for upholding the rule of law and junking the charges against a journalist and a labor union organizer, who were arrested on International Human Rights Day last December.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate commended Mandaluyong Judge Monique Quisumbing Ignacio of Branch 209 for dismissing the illegal possession of firearms and explosives charges against Lady Ann Salem, an editor of Manila Today, and Rodrigo Esparago.

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Salem and Esparago were among the seven people who were arrested in a series of police operations against leftist activists on Dec. 10, 2020.

But Ignacio ruled that probable cause was not sufficiently established against Salem and Esparago because of inconsistencies in the statements of the informant and the arresting officers.

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The court also expunged from the record the grenades, pistols and ammunition supposedly seized from the two, and declared inadmissible as evidence the laptops, cell phones and other devices taken from their condominium unit.

Vague search warrant

The judge said the police illegally seized items that were not listed on the search warrant, which itself “suffered from vagueness” as it did not specify with sufficient particularity, which items should be seized as evidence.

The court also voided the search warrants, that were issued by Quezon City RTC Branch 89 Judge Cecilyn Burgos Villavert.

Lawyer Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, also lauded the decision and hoped that it would lead to the dismissal of similar complaints against activists arrested in questionable police operations.

“It should have a persuasive effect [on other cases],” Olalia told the Inquirer.

He said “the message [of the court] is loud, clear and strong … One cannot take shortcuts, ignore or circumvent the rules.”

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TAGS: Human Rights Day, Lady Ann Salem, Zarate
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