Prosecutors oppose journo’s release after Mandaluyong court’s dismissal of criminal charges
MANILA, Philippines — Government prosecutors have opposed a motion filed by the camp of alternative media journalist Lady Ann Salem calling for her release following the Mandaluyong regional trial court’s dismissal of the criminal charges filed against her.
In a comment filed by the City Prosecutor’s Office on behalf of complainant Philippine National Police, it claimed that the February 5 ruling of the Mandaluyong RTC Branch 209 on the dismissal of the charges has not yet attained finality, thus, Salem could not yet be released.
“The order of dismissal, received by the City Prosecutor’s Office on 05 February 2021, has yet to attain finality. Ineluctably, the Prosecution will seek relief therefrom,” the prosecution said in a pleading filed on February 9.
“Sans conclusiveness, the Order dismissing the charges against Accused Salem remain subject to consideration or appeal, rendering improper her plea for immediate release,” prosecutors added.
In their reply, Salem’s lawyers disagreed with the prosecutors’ argument of prematurity of enforcement of the court’s order.
“The dismissal of the cases, drawn upon the quashal of the search warrant and consequential declaration that the seized evidence is inadmissible as evidence, is one tantamount to an acquittal,” her camp said.
Her lawyers also pointed out that the rules on criminal proceedings require that a judgment of acquittal, whether ordered by the trial or the appellate court, is final, unappealable, and immediately executory upon its promulgation.
“Thus, it is immediately executory. The defense invokes the finality-of-acquittal rule,” they added.
Salem’s lawyers also noted that the order of the Mandaluyong court quashing the search warrant, suppressing or excluding the evidence, and dismissing the case is an “evidentiary ruling.”
“The Order of the Honorable Court, being an adjudication on the merits, is final and executory,” they said.
The dismissal of the cases also triggers double jeopardy for the accused, according to the lawyers, who then reiterated their call for a release order for Salem.
Salem, editor of alternative media site Manila Today, and her companion Rodrigo Esparago were arrested on December 10 last year for supposed violation of Republic Act No. 10592 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act and R.A. 9516 or the Law on Explosives, after police accused them of being involved in a gun-running syndicate. The arrest coincided with the observance of the global Human Rights Day.
However, the trial court dismissed on February 5 the charges against Salem and Esparago and granted their motions to quash the search warrant, suppress the evidence, and declare the illegally seized items as inadmissible.
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