Detained labor activist to file habeas corpus suit for his release

A habeas corpus petition has been filed by the lawyers of labor activist Ernesto Jude C. Rimando Jr. before the Regional Trial Court in Taguig City, calling for the authorities holding him in custody to produce him before the court, and for the court to order his immediate release from detention after notice and hearing.

The 57-year old trade unionist, who worked as a researcher for the Alyansa sa mga Mamumuo sa Sugbo, was arrested at his rented apartment in Barangay Payatas, Quezon City on January 6, 2021 by six armed men in plainclothes who used a warrant in the name of “Allan Morales.” He had taken a leave from work to seek treatment for sepsis and liver cirrhosis and had been renting his apartment for a year. At the time of his arrest, Rimando had been given a poor prognosis by his attending physician, saying he had only a few more months to live.

Despite Rimando’s condition, however, he was blindfolded, bound at the wrists with duct tape, physically assaulted and interrogated. The arresting team brought Rimando to the CIDG headquarters in Camp Crame where he was threatened and subjected to further interrogation by another set of policemen.

In his judicial affidavit, Rimando recounted that when he was brought to the inquest fiscal on January 8, 2021, he noticed that his black backpack containing his personal effects and medical records were brought along. Later, he was to find out that he was being charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives, apparently on the basis of “evidence” that had been planted in his backpack.

He was acquitted of these trumped-up charges last April 2023. The trial court gave weight and credence to his “candid and straightforward testimony” vis-á-vis the “unreliable statements of the prosecution’s witnesses” as well as the questionable circumstances of their alleged discovery, seizure, and handling of the firearms, ammunition and explosive allegedly found in his possession. “It must be noted that the prosecution did not present any evidence that the police officers arrested ‘Allan Morales,’ the person indicated in the Warrant of Arrest,” said Rimando’s lawyer Atty. Maria Sol Taule.

Rimando’s habeas corpus petition stresses that he has never gone by the name of “Allan Morales” and presented proof of Rimando’s identity such as his baptismal certificate and school records, including his yearbook. A high school classmate has also testified to affirm his identity as Ernesto Jude C. Rimando Jr.

Despite Rimando’s acquittal and other pieces of evidence presented, however, the warden at the Metro Manila District Jail 4 where Rimando is currently detained has refused to release him, since the “Allan Morales” named in the warrants used to justify Rimando’s arrest faces seven criminal cases ranging from swindling to murder.

“Indubitably, petitioner Rimando has been illegally deprived of liberty,” according to his habeas corpus motion. “He prays that the instant Petition be granted. Petitioner Rimando is invoking this Honorable Court’s power to issue the great writ of liberty as a speedy and effectual remedy to relieve petitioner Rimando from unlawful restraint and as the ‘best and only sufficient defense of personal freedom,’ as is consistent with the law’s ‘zealous regard for personal liberty.'”

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said, “We are fervently hoping that the court will issue a favorable decision. As a victim of multiple human rights violations such as false arrest, torture, planting of evidence and perjured testimonies, Rimando deserves release on just and humanitarian grounds.”