Two years since the arrest of Tondo 3, human rights groups and supporters of Ram Carlo Bautista, Reina Mae Nasino, and Alma Moran protested in front of Court of Appeals (CA) to call for the immediate deliberation on their petition for certiorari filed on September 24 last year.
The petition was filed in response to their denied motion to quash and suppressed seized evidence at the Manila court where the illegal possession of firearms and explosives cases against them is on trial.
The Tondo 3 were arrested via a pre-dawn raid at the Bayan Manila office in on November 5, 2019. The raid was the third in a series of police raids activists’ homes and offices from October 30 to November 5 in Negros Occidental and Manila that year, all conducted via the strength of warrants issued by Quezon City Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert.
Cora Agovida and Michael Tan Bartolome were arrested in a similar fashion at their home in Manila on October 31, 2019.
Those arrested in Manila during that period are collectively known as the Manila 5.
In all raids in Negros and Manila, guns and explosives were allegedly found by police, those in the premises were arrested and detained on illegal possession of firearms and explosives charges, also now known as the usual charges against activists.
The accused and their groups accuse the police of planting of evidence, known as a common modus operandi in the war on drugs “nanlaban” [fought back] deaths. Illegal possession of explosives is a non-bailable case that kept those accused of such crimes in jail, even if based solely on the testimony of the police.
Gabriela Metro Manila spokesperson Letty Castillo slammed the Philippine National Police (PNP) for weaponizing the law to crack down on activists.
“Hindi na bago ang istilo ng Philippine National Police sa paglalagay ng mga gawa-gawang kaso sa mga aktibistang ito,” Castillo said, citing the countless incidents wherein the police were caught fabricating cases and planting evidence against activists and human rights defenders.
[This style of the Philippine National Police of fabricating cases against these activists is not new.]
Castillo also urged the CA to heed their petition to release the three political prisoners who were also ‘wrongly tagged’ by the PNP as terrorists.
“Ang tatlo pong ito [Bautista, Casino, Moran] ay mga aktibista, hindi mga terorista […] Hindi kriminal ang manawagan ng pagpapataas ng sahod ng mga manggagawa. Hindi kriminal ang manawagan na labanan ang abuso ng kababaihan, bata, at ng mamamayan. Walang mga kasalanan ang mga aktibistang ito kung hindi ipanawagan ang karapatan ng mga mamamayan,” said Castillo.
[These three are activists, not terrorists. It is not criminal to call for increase of workers’ wages. It is not criminal to call out abuse of women, children and the people. These activists have no crmine other than demand for the rights of the people.]
KAPATID Metro Manila called out Burgos-Villavert amid the “manufacturing” of warrants against numerous activists imprisoned using the same narrative of involvement in gun-running syndicates and illegally possessing firearms and explosives.
The search warrants she issued against Manila Today editor Lady Ann Salem and Samahan ng Manggagawa sa Quezon City labor organizer Rodrigo Esparago were quashed Mandaluyong RTC Branch 209 Judge Monique Quisumbing-Ignacio quashed Villavert’s warrants, the first of several search warrants against activists that were quashed by co-equal judges this year. Five others from the Human Rights Day 7, those arrested on December 10, 2020 pre-dawn police raids with all warrants from Burgos-Villavert, remain in jail.
The search warrant that Burgos-Villavert issued during the same year for John Milton Lozande and five others in Negros was dismissed by Bacolod City RTC Branch 42 Judge Ana Celeste Bernad also in March for its failure to properly specify the place to be searched.