MANILA – The National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) has urged the Supreme Court (SC) to review its rules on the issuance of search warrants in light of recent arrests made against dozens of activists in Bacolod City and as well in Manila.
The NUPL said in its statement that the simultaneous raids in the offices of Bayan Muna, Gabriela, National Federation of Sugar Workers in Bacolod City, and the arrest of the spokesperson of Gabriela Metro Manila and her husband in Manila is “questionable.”
“On Oct. 30, 2019 at around five in the afternoon, Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert of the Regional Trial Court Branch 89 in Quezon City reportedly had a dialogue with National Capital Region acting police director Brigadier General Debold Sinas at the Quezon City Hall of Justice,” the group added.
The NUPL claimed that this “visitation/dialogue” occurred on the same day she issued the search warrants used in the joint police-military raids of the offices and residences of human rights defenders and people’s organizations in Negros Occidental and Manila the following day.
The group also said that they received information that Burgos-Villavert “had also issued the search warrants in different places which led to the filing of assailed charges for purported illegal possession of firearms and explosives against several activists and peace consultants.”
The NUPL further questioned the arrest warrant, saying that: “Who in the Philippine National Police endorsed the application for warrant, what was the basis for issuing the search warrant, if any witness was heard, and what was the reason behind applying for a warrant in a court far from where the search and arrests took place.”
“We are asking the Supreme Court to look into the seemingly irregular issuance of search and arrest warrants essentially based on political designs,” the NUPL said. “The Judiciary must not allow itself to be used for political persecution.”
Following the issuance of the NUPL statement, SC spokesperson Brian Hosaka said in a television interview that Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta has ordered the Court Administrator to remind judges to be “deliberate, circumspect, and prudent with the issuances of warrants.”
“If respondents feel aggrieved with the issuance, the proper remedy is to file a motion to quash either before the court that issued them, or before the court where the cases are eventually filed,” Hosaka said in an interview with CNN Philippines.
The SC spokesperson also clarified that Executive Judges of Manila and Quezon City are authorized to issue search warrants which can be implemented nationwide in certain instances and provided that the legal requirements are met./PN