Manila court acquits baby River’s mom, 2 others in firearms and explosives case
MANILA, Philippines – A Manila court has acquitted activist Reina Mae Nasino and two others of illegal possession of firearms and explosives case due to insufficiency of evidence.
Nasino, together with Alma Moran and Ram Carlo Bautista were arrested in Tondo, Manila, in November 2019. Police seized firearms, ammunition and grenade.
The policemen claimed the arrested suspects were supporters of the New People’s Army, an accusation that they have denied.
Nasino was pregnant when she was arrested. She gave birth while in detention. She appealed to the court that she be allowed to stay with her newborn baby she named River, but her request was denied. Baby River got weak and eventually died after separation from her mother.
In acquitting the three, Manila RTC Branch 47 Presiding Judge John Benedict Medina cited the conflicting testimonies of the witnesses–two policemen and the Barangay chairwoman of the area where the alleged firearms, ammunition, and grenades were seized.
The court also said the prosecution failed to present the seized items in court.
The prosecution presented three witnesses. Two policemen testified–one part of the team that implemented the search warrant and the other, the designated photographer. However, the one who led the team that seized the firearms and marked them for evidence was not presented in court.
One of the police witnesses said he did not even know what markings were placed on the seized firearms, while the designated photographer admitted that he was only called to take pictures of the seized items after the search warrant was implemented. He did not witness the actual search.
Both policemen said the firearms, ammunition, and grenade were seized on the third floor of the house in Tondo, Manila.
But the Barangay Chairwoman said the search was conducted on the second floor of the house where there were two rooms. In both rooms, there were already police officers while the three accused were tied with cable wire in one room.
The chairwoman said she knows the owner of the house, but she does not know Nasino, Moran, and Bautista.
The chairwoman also testified about the discovery of the grenade. She said she only saw the firearms on the floor at the second room of the house.
“The testimonies of the prosecution witnesses muddled the prosecution evidence with their inconsistencies…These inconsistencies on the material details of their discovery are so striking that this Court ought not to have ignored or brushed aside,” the court said.
No actual firearms, ammunition, grenade presented
Aside from the inconsistencies in the testimonies of the witnesses, the court said only photos of the seized items were presented. The court added that even the witnesses failed to identify in open court the seized firearms that were marked for evidence.
“The Court finds that the unmistakable conflicting testimonies of the prosecution witnesses generate serious doubt as to whether the firearms, ammunition and explosives were really found in the rooms of the accused as they were not identified with sufficient particularity,” the court said.
“The constitutional presumption of innocence of the accused has not been demolished for the failure of the prosecution in proving the guilt of the illegal possession of firearms, ammunition, and explosives beyond a reasonable doubt,” it added.