Rain or shine. Groups and families of Mark Ryan Cruz, Romina Astudillo, and Jaymie Gregorio Jr, three of the Human Rights Day 7 (HRD7), protested at the Quezon City (QC) Hall of Justice on the day of the online hearing of the three on July 9.

QC Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 84 proceeded with the arraignment of the three on illegal possession of firearms charges. The illegal possession of explosives charges against them were filed at QC RTC Branch 91.

This is the day before their seventh month in detention, after the December 10, 2020 midnight police raid in their home in Quezon City on the strength of a search warrant by QC Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert. The controversial judge also issued search warrants to the rest of the HRD7 in three other locations, via a police narrative that the seven were linked in a ‘gun-running syndicate.’

“Cecilyn Villavert, kung nandyan ka, makonsensya ka naman. Nanay ka rin. Ilang anak na ang inagawan mo ng pagkakataon na makasama ang mga magulang nila,” Ella Durana, wife of Cruz, shouted.

[Cecilyn Villavert, if you are there, have a conscience. You are a mother too. You have deprived many sons and daughters of a chance to be with their parents.]

Manila Today editor Lady Ann Salem and Samahan ng Manggagawa sa Quezon City organizer Rodrigo Esparago were released on March 5, after Mandaluyong Judge Monique Quisumbing-Ignacio voided Villavert’s warrants, suppressed the evidence, and dismissed the charges.

The protesters pushed for the immediate release of five from the HRD7 who remain in prison.

Cruz and Gregorio are currently detained at the MMDJ Annex 2, also in Bicutan. Astudillo is detained at the Quezon City Female Dormitory inside Camp Karingal. In the hearing, the families found out that their motion to transfer to a different detention facility was denied.

Two others, Joel Demate of labor group SOLAR and Dennise Velasco of labor NGO Defend Jobs Philippines, are currently detained at the Metro Manila District Jail (MMDJ) Annex 4 in Camp Bagong Diwa, along with more than 30 political prisoners mostly arrested under the current administration.

Kilusang Mayo Uno Metro Manila vice-chairperson Gerardo Serue asked the presiding judge of Branch 84 to extensively probe the ‘Villavert warrants,’ citing the rigor exercised by Judge Quisumbing-Ignacio.

Family’s lament

“Ilang pamilya na ang winasak mo. Ilang manggagawa na ang kinulong mo. Ilang mga magsasaka na ang iyong pinatay dahil lamang sa pagbibigay mo ng search warrant na kwestyonable at walang batayan,” Durana addressed Judge Villavert.

[You have destroyed many families. You have put many workers behind bars. You have killed many farmers through your questionable and baseless warrants.

Cruz and Durana’s 11-year son MJ Cruz wrote a letter to Judge Kathleen Dela Cruz-Espinosa of QC RTC Branch 91 on May 27 to attest that his father is innocent.

The same judge denied the motion to quash search warrants filed by Cruz, Astudillo, and Gregorio last May 2.


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