Elderly rights worker arrested in Bloody Sunday raids seeks dismissal of trumped-up charges, reiterates inconsistent evidence

Fourteen months after the Bloody Sunday raids in March 2021 that led to the killing of nine activists and the arrest and detention of four others, elderly political prisoner and human rights worker Nimfa Lanzanas once again appealed to the court to dismiss the charges against her, maintaining that the firearms and explosives allegedly in her possession were planted.

“We hope that the court sees all these inconsistencies and deliberate lies by the elements of the PNP just to pin down Nimfa Lanzanas, an elderly woman, a grandmother and a dedicated human rights worker. They are obviously having a hard time making their evidence look true and reliable, which are more than enough basis to set Lanzanas free,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

Lanzanas, 61, is a paralegal of Karapatan’s regional chapter in Southern Tagalog and mother of political prisoner Edward Lanzanas. Operatives of the raid, identified to be from the PRO 4A, CIDG RFU 4A, CIDG NCRFU, SAF, and the 202nd Brigade and 2nd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, arrested Lanzanas based on false allegations that three guns and a grenade were among her belongings at home, where Lanzanas’s grandchildren, ages 6, 9, and 11, were sleeping beside her. She is currently detained at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology facility in Calamba City.

In November last year, the court has denied Lanzanas’ omnibus motion to quash search warrants and suppress evidence against her. Last May 13, Lanzanas filed an instant demurrer before the Calamba City Regional Trial Court Branch 37, as she reiterated that “the prosecution’s evidence failed to prove the following common elements of violations of Republic Act 9516 and Republic Act 10591,” which constitute the charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives against her.

“In this demurrer, the accused seeks the dismissal of the instant cases on the ground that the evidence produced by the prosecution is insufficient in point of law to make out a case or sustain the issues,” stated the motion.

Lanzanas reiterated that the police failed to establish that said firearms and explosives were in her possession at the time of arrest, maintaining that the police failed to establish probable cause to justify the raid in her home. At the same time, Lanzanas stressed the material inconsistencies in the testimonies of the raiding team, including differences in the date of surveillance, the time of the search. Lanzanas’ home and exact address is also not covered by the search warrant, issued by Manila City 3rd Vice Executive Judge Jason Zapanta.

Lanzanas also reiterated the irregularity of the search warrants, including the one used against Lanzanas. It can be remembered that 42 out of 63 applications for search warrants in the Bloody Sunday raids were filed with the Manila Regional Trial Court, an “unusually high” number issued only in a couple of days last year.

“Lanzanas’ unjust detention should end soon. We make this appeal to the court to make the most just decision of dismissing the charges against her. Let us not leave any human rights worker behind bars. At this time, we need more of them, like Lanzanas who, despite suffering from unjust detention, are tediously working for justice and the rights of others,” Palabay stated.

Along with the demurrer, Lanzanas and her counsel also expressed opposition for the court to accept the late submission of the PNP’s Firearms and Explosive Office certification on the said firearms and explosives which the PNP wants to use as evidence against her. The court has given the prosecution to submit evidence until April 8, but Lanzanas said there was “no evidence that it was timely filed.”

“The belated submission, therefore, should be construed strictly against the State. Certainly, the prosecution should not be allowed to belatedly produce evidence to support its conclusions as stated in the Informations. Otherwise, it would cause grave injustice to the accused, considering further her firm position, as borne out by the evidence, that the allegedly seized firearms, ammunitions and explosive are planted,” the manifestation read.