Dismiss cases vs political prisoners based on faulty search warrants – KARAPATAN

Human rights group Karapatan reiterated its call to dismiss cases against other political prisoners detained and charged with trumped-up cases on the basis of faulty and unjust search warrants after the Supreme Court’s affirmation of the Court of Appeal’s decision to void the search warrants used against activists Reina Mae Nasino, Ram Carlo Bautista, and Alma Moran.

“We hope that this decision will pave the way for the dismissal of several other cases where faulty search warrants were used to pin down and arrest activists,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay. “As in the case of Nasino, Bautista and Moran, these search warrants lacked specificity and resulted in unjust and indiscriminate arrests and detention.”

According to Palabay, the SC decision which stressed that “only those places named in the warrant should be searched, and those things listed should be seized” should likewise be applied in the following cases of political prisoners:

UCCP Pastor Nathaniel Vallente, who, on June 25, 2021 was arrested in Mabini, Bohol. State operatives searched a house different from Vallente’s despite being informed that the subject of the search warrant (Vallente) lived in another house. Vallente realized that it was because the police had already planted a hand grenade and four .45 caliber pistols inside that house. Vallente was arrested even if the alleged pieces of evidence were not “recovered” from his house.

Carmilo Tabada, who, on June 25, 2021 was arrested by police operatives in Trinidad, Bohol. The operatives barged into the compound of the Tabada family and carried out a search of all houses before going to Carmilo Tabada’s house. At Carmilo’s house, one of his children saw the police placing something in his room, and shut the door. The operatives presented the search warrant only when two barangay officials arrived to witness the search. The operatives allegedly found a hand grenade, three firearms of assorted caliber and purported subversive documents in Carmilo’s closet.

Erlindo Baez and Wilfredo Capareño, who on October 6, 2021, were arrested by more than 50 combined elements of the police and military in a house in Sariaya, Quezon, after the police allegedly found a grenade among Baez’s belongings. Baez was arrested on the basis of a warrant for the charge of illegal possession of firearms and explosives after a previous raid on his residence in Batangas on March 7. The search warrant used for this raid merely stated Baez’s address as Barangay San Vicente, Sto. Tomas, Batangas with no other entries that would specifically describe Baez’s home. The police also entered the house despite Baez’s absence and without presenting the search warrant to Baez’s wife. The police claimed to have recovered firearms and explosives at the house, which are believed to have been planted by the raiding team. The search warrant for the Batangas raid has since been quashed by the Tanauan City RTC Branch 6 in an order dated October 25, 2021 that also absolved Baez of his illegal possession charge stemming from this raid. He remains in jail, however, for the illegal possession case in Quezon, where the police seized “evidence” in the course of serving an arrest warrant for the Batangas case that weeks later, would be dismissed.

“We reiterate that the only way to correct these activists’ unjust detention is to dismiss the trumped-up charges against them,” stressed Palabay.

“We demand an end to the filing of trumped-up charges against activists, rights defenders and other dissenters. There has clearly been no letup in such cases, despite claims by the Marcos Jr. regime that the human rights situation in the Philippines is improving,” said Palabay. #