Two of ‘Human Rights Day 7’ seek release order from the Supreme Court

MANILA, Philippines — Two of the six trade union organizers, among the dubbed “Human Rights Day 7,” ran to the Supreme Court to seek their release, alleging infirmities in the search warrant and violations of human rights in their arrest.

In separate pleadings on Friday, Dennise Velasco and Joel Demate filed petition for the issuance of habeas corpus. They asked the SC to thereafter order the respondent police officers to release the two activists without undue delay.

Both pleas, prepared though the assistance of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, narrated circumstances that led to the arrest of Velasco and Demate who were both arrested in their homes wee hours of December 10. Although aware that the filing of charges against them may have rendered their petition moot, the petitioners urged the court to look into their case amid questions on implementation of search warrants that, rights group claimed, targets activists.

READ: Arrests mar commemoration of International Human Rights Day

NUPL president Edre Olalia confirmed to Philstar.com that the petitions were filed on Friday morning.

‘Two searches’

Demante’s petition, filed by his wife Corazon, told the SC that the activist and his daughter were awakened at around 2:00 to 2:30 a.m. by loud banging at their gate. Policemen then entered their house and led them outside their house while the cops remained inside their house.

After 20 minutes, they were allowed inside the house while the search was conducted with two representatives from the barangay. When they were led to the second floor of their house, “they were shocked to see several firearms and a grenade already on display,” Demante asserted were not his own.

At around the same time, armed men in camouflage uniform were also banging at the doors of Velasco in Quezon City, the separate plea read.

Velasco and two others who were living in their house were told get out of their rooms and lie face down on the floor as they were handcuffed. “Thereafter, the armed men entered all the three bedrooms as the second floor of the house to search,” the petition read.

After around 45 minutes, barangay officials arrived. Velasco and their house help were allowed to stay inside.

The police officials and barangay officials then proceeded to the second floor. Later, a personnel of the police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group came down with a rifle and a bag containing hand gun and ammunition, supposedly taken from the room of Velasco and his wife. Another bag containing several ammunitions was also presented to them.

It was only then that the search warrant was read to Velasco.

RELATED: Amid calls for review, judges urged to be prudent in issuing search warrants

On the day of the arrests of Velasco and Demate, four other trade union organizers and a journalist were also arrested. They are Mark Ryan Cruz, Romina Astudillo, Jaymie Gregorio and Rodrigo Esparago and Manila Today editor Lady Ann Salem.

Infirmities

The two pleadings pointed out that the authorities conducted a search in the house while the petitioners and their companions were isolated. These periods were ample time to “plant false evidence,” that were seized during the second search with barangay representatives.

In both instances, the search warrants were only read to them. From the time of the arrest to this day, they have not seen the warrant nor were they given records of the inquest proceedings, they said.

The NUPL noted that they are aware of the 1985 case of Ilagan vs Enrile where the petition of habeas corpus was rendered moot and academic by the filing of an Information or charge.

In Demate’s case, the lawyers argued that the infirmities in the search warrant and its implementation cannot be cured by the filing of the charge, “by going through the motions and based on contrived false narratives, brazenly planted evidence, simulated witnesses and documentation, and patent multiple violation of basic rights.”

“If such acts will be tolerated, this will condone and even embolden other police and law enforcement agents to wantonly violate the right of any citizen, illegally arrest them and file a criminal case later on to cure the ab initio defect or irregularity,” the petition read.

In the petition for Velasco’s release, the NUPL also stressed: “Similarly, in instances where there is danger that the acts sought to be reviewed, or the violation complained of will be repeated, mootness should not be invoked to preclude the courts from resolving the issues involved therein.”

They added that the charge against Velasco are trumped up that will fit into a narrative that will justify his continued detention. “This is not the first time that this issue is raised before our courts. Certainly, this will not be the last,” the petition read.

They added: “This will hopefully give ample protection to the citizenry, particularly to their constitutional right against unreasonable searches and seizure which have been occurring for the longest time but with more intensity and impunity lately.”

Families and friends of the HRDay 7, as well as rights groups, have also called on the Judiciary to look into the issuance and implementation of search warrants, in the wake of spate of arrests of activists.



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