Kapatid wants Reina Mae Nasino, 2 activists freed after court voids search warrants

·Contributor
·4 min read
Detained Filipino activist Reina Mae Nasino, in a hazmat suit for protection against the coronavirus, mourns over her three-month-old daughter's coffin, who died while she was in jail, in Manila North Cemetery, Philippines, October 16, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez)
Detained Filipino activist Reina Mae Nasino, in a hazmat suit for protection against the coronavirus, mourns over her three-month-old daughter's coffin, who died while she was in jail, in Manila North Cemetery, Philippines, October 16, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez)

After the appellate court nullified the search warrants issued by a local court, a network of support group for families and friends of political prisoners is calling for the immediate release of Reina Mae Nasino, and two other activists.

“Nothing now stands in the way of freedom for Reina Mae Nasino, Alma Moran and Ram Carlo Bautista after nearly three years in jail for an offense they did not commit because it was pure police invention,” Kapatid’s spokesperson, Fides Lim, said.

“We ask the courts to order their prompt release. Let Reina Mae now visit the grave of her baby daughter and mourn her in peace, which was so cruelly denied her during the wake and burial of River,” she added.

In October 2020, Nasino caught the attention of the international community after authorities forcibly separated her and her infant child, River, who died less than two months due to pneumonia.

Throughout her furlough from prison to attend her daughter's funeral and burial, she was surrounded by countless police officers and handcuffed the entire time, and disallowed to talk to the media.

CA decision on Nasino and two others’ cases

In a decision penned by Associate Justice Emily L. San Gaspar-Gito, the Court of Appeals (CA) reversed the ruling of the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) denying Nasino, Alma Moran, and Ram Carlo Bautista’s plea to suppress the illegally-seized evidence and to nullify the search warrants.

The three were arrested by virtue of search warrants issued by Quezon City RTC executive judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert on November 5, 2019, in Tondo, Manila.

Allegedly seized from them were one hand grenade, a .45 caliber pistol and magazine with live ammunition, a Bushmaster M16 5.56 mm rifle with magazine and live ammunition, and several other alleged illegal items.

They were then charged before the Manila RTC for violations of Presidential Decree No. 1866 as amended by Republic Act (RA) No. 9516, and RA 10591.

They moved to nullify the search warrants and suppress the use of alleged confiscated firearms in their possession, arguing that the search was illegal because the address is different from the one stated in the warrant and that the pieces of evidence seized were inadmissible because they are “fruits of a poisonous tree.”

However, the Manila RTC, under Judge Marivic T. Balisi-Umali, denied their pleas, and they filed a petition before the CA.

The three told the CA that the firearms allegedly seized from them were not theirs, and were just planted by those that raided them.

The CA ruled in favor of them, saying that: “The right against unreasonable searches and seizures is one of the fundamental constitutional rights that remains constant despite the everchanging Constitution of our country, from the 1899 Malolos Constitution to the present 1987 Constitution.”

“Courts are therefore expected to be vigilant in preventing its stealthy encroachment or gradual depreciation and ensure that the safeguards put in place for its protection are observed. We do so today,” the ruling read further.

The other two justices, Associate Justices Eduardo B. Peralta Jr. and Walter S. Ong, concurred with the decision.

‘Review other cases that arose from Villavert’s search warrants’

With this CA decision, Kapatid is also calling on other courts to take a hard look into other warrants issued by Judge Villavert who earned the monicker “Search Warrant Factory Queen” from activists.

“We appeal to all courts trying cases that also arose from the search warrant factory of Judge Villavert to take a hard look at the inconsistent and incredulous testimonies of police witnesses and likewise dismiss the cases for clearly being trumped up against activists,” Lim said.

She cited her husband, National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant Vicente Ladlad and Virginia and Alberto Villamor’s case, going four years now after they were arrested on November 8, 2018.

Lim also cited other instances where other RTC judges quashed search warrants issued by Villavert.

“The dismissal of Villavert search warrant cases picked up following the Supreme Court circular issued in July, which responded to appeals of human rights lawyers and groups to scrap the power of Manila and Quezon City judges to issue search warrants outside their judicial region,” said Lim.

Marvin Joseph Ang is a news and creative writer who follows developments on politics, democracy, and popular culture. He advocates for a free press and national democracy. Follow him on Twitter at @marvs30ang for latest news and updates. The views expressed are his own.

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