NCCP lauds Legazpi court for dismissing pastor’s arrest order
MANILA, Philippines — The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) lauded the decision of a Legazpi court to grant the motion to quash the arrest order against Pastor Danilo Balucio who was accused of gunrunning.
NCCP General Secretary Bishop Reuel Norman Marigza said the order to release Balucio is a decision to stand with “truth and justice,” as they believe the pastor was wrongly arrested.
“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.” Marigza said in a statement on Saturday.
Marigza also thanked Balucio’s counsel, lawyer Ricky Tomotorgo, for working to release the pastor who is the NCCP’s ecumenical partner in the humanitarian response operation in the Bicol Region.
A 10-page order from the Legazpi Regional Trial Court Branch 10 dated August 4 said Balucio’s motion to quash the arrest orders against him was granted for lack of probable cause.
Presiding Judge Maria Theresa San-Juan Loquillano explained that the search warrants sought by the Philippine National Police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) were not based on personally verified information.
According to Loquillano, the main applicant of the search warrant, Police Maj. Michael John Villaneuva, used the terms “I have been informed,” which suggests that he does not have personal knowledge of the allegations raised against Balucio and the other alleged gunrunners.
Balucio was arrested on the same day last May 2021 with Anakbayan regional spokesperson Sasah Sta. Rosa, in separate police operations in Albay and Camarines Sur.
Balucio was accused of illegally selling guns after an informant told the CIDG in Metro Manila that Justine Mesias — also a subject of a different search warrant — was selling guns in the Bicol Region.
When the informant was accompanied by an undercover police officer who asked to be sold high-powered guns, Mesias then allegedly pointed to Balucio as the supplier of the guns.
But Loquillano said there were several problems in the arrest of Balucio, as the police officers were not able to properly identify the names of landmarks near the pastor’s house. The judge said Semilla even cannot describe the location of Balucio’s house and the nearby landmarks, saying that the labels of the vulcanizing shop and the school were too small for him to remember.
In addition, the presiding judge did not understand why the informant had filed his complaint with the CIDG office in Metro Manila, rather than with the Bicol Region CIDG office.
The NCCP said that many individuals have attested to Balucio’s character as a dignified servant who helps communities in Bicol Region during typhoons.
“During relief distribution operations, we have testimonies from the ground asking how is Pastor Dan and some even held up signs calling for his release. This goes to show how Pastor Dan is – a servant, a worker for dignity and hope for his fellow Bicolano,” Marigza said.
Other detained activists were earlier freed after the court found no evidence or cited a lack of probable cause to support the arrest and search orders against them.
Last February, a Mandaluyong court dropped the illegal firearms charges against a journalist on the grounds that there were inaccuracies and discrepancies in the statements of the police officers.