We are distraught with the denial of the motion to quash warrants filed by counsels of Joel Demate, Mark Ryan Cruz, Romina Astudillo and Jaymie Gregorio Jr. in Manila and QC courts.
In one hearing and one narrative of the #HRD7 accusers, a QC Executive judge released search warrants to four locations that led to the midnight raid, planting of evidence, arrests and detention of 6 trade union organizers and 1 journalist on Human Rights Day in 2020. It was already nearing the March 5 release of Manila Today editor Lady Ann Salem when she found out that the fabricated narrative against her and her co-accused Rodrigo Esparago was that they were part (leaders, even) of a gun running syndicate.
That narrative has been proven without credibility and false in their case, when the charges against them were dismissed on February 5. Falsehoods that the informant gave the QC court regarding how his alleged knowledge of their ‘criminal activities’ in order for the police to obtain a search warrant against the two have also been exposed.
However, 5 of the #HRD7 still remain in jail. They might now go to trial for something that had already been proven untrue in other quarters, or because the issuing judge has again been accorded ‘presumption of regularity’ in the performance of her duties.
Chief Justice (CJ) Alexander Gesmundo, during the search for the next CJ, said the “judge [issuing the warrant] cannot solely rely on the affidavits of the complainant in the witnesses they produced because that would be in violation of the Constitution, as well as the rules on criminal procedure.”
CJ Gesmundo also said then that it’s important to get records of the search warrant when charges are eventually filed against the persons searched. In the case of Reina Mae Nasino and company, the trial judge did not subpoena warrant records because, again, the issuing judge was accorded ‘presumption of regularity.’
These statements give hope, especially because there are so many cases of political persecution in the country. We hope these statements were not merely for academic discussion as many lives have been lost, others still on the line.
We hope that the Supreme Court can ensure that no court can become or has really become a warrant factory, such as reviewing the authority given to judges to issue warrants outside their jurisdiction (e.g multiple search warrants in Negros issued by the same QC Executive judge, so why the trouble for witnesses in Negros traveling all the way to QC to appear before her?).
We also join those calling for the junking of the anti-terrorism law. If that pushes through, the police need not through the whole planting of evidence charade.
It would be hard for ordinary citizens like us to simply just rely on luck for cases of political persecution presented before the courts as criminal cases to be raffled to brave judges. It would be hard to simply rely on the courage of the likes of Judge Monique Quisumbing-Ignacio, Ana Bernad, or Wilhelmina Go-Santiago to thoroughly examine and look for the truth and promptly mete out justice.