Three detained activists, including a 23-year-old mother whose three-month-old baby had been rushed to the hospital, have filed a petition asking the Court of Appeals (CA) the quash the search warrants that led to their arrest and suppress the pieces of evidence gathered against them for being inadmissible.
“Perforce, these search warrants must be quashed. Any evidence allegedly seized from their implementation are fruits of the poisonous tree; they are inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding,” they said in the joint petition they filed Thursday through their legal counsel the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL).
The petitioners are Reina Nasino, coordinator of the urban poor organization Katipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) Manila chapter; Ram Carlo Bautista, campaign director of the multisectoral formation Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Manila chapter; and Alma Moran, member of the secretariat of labor union Manila Workers Unity.
Nasino’s baby, River, is currently confined at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) in Manila and was found suffering from pneumonia.
The petition was filed after Judge Marivic Balisi-Umali of the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 20 issued an order last July 22 that upheld her July 1 order that which denied the separate motions filed by the three activists who sought to quash the search warrants and suppress illegally seized evidence.
The three activists were arrested by police on Nov. 5, 2019 in a halfway house for members of Bayan and other affiliated organizations where firearms, ammunition, and explosives were discovered but petitioners claimed were planted.
The NUPL noted in the petition that the search warrant was among those issued by Quezon City Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert and used in by the Philippine National Police in the crackdown and arrest of activists in Bacolod City, Escalante City, and Manila.
The NUPL lamented Umali dismissed the joint omnibus motion for reconsideration on the ground that it should have been filed within five calendar days based on the rules set by the Supreme Court (SC).
“Petitioners belatedly filed their Joint Urgent Motion at the time of a pandemic. During this period, the undersigned counsels’ and their witnesses’ mobility was limited due to travel restrictions and lack of public transportation under the General Community Quarantine (GCQ). It also took time for the undersigned to consult with the Petitioners in jail, given that contact visitation with persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) is still strictly prohibited to this day,” explained the NUPL.
It also pointed out that the judge “refused to acknowledge and scrutinize the police’s non-compliance with the unequivocal rule of the Constitution as regards to the validity of search warrants.”
The NUPL cited that the search warrant indicated that the place to be searched was 672 Flora St. corner Clemente St. in Barangay 183, Tondo, Manila but it was enforced in Barangay 178, among other misapplication of the search warrant.
The legal counsel said the judge prematurely ruled on the issuance of the search warrants.
“To review the purported evidence of probable cause in the issuance of a search warrant, it is necessary to determine whether the issuing judge made an independent assessment of the evidence adduced to his or her by propounding probing and exhaustive questions to the complainant and his witnesses. Records of the application proceedings, which include the affidavits of the complainant and his or her witnesses and the transcript of stenographic notes taken during their examination by the issuing judge, must therefore be at hand,” the NUPL explained.
“Considering that neither the Respondent Judge nor the parties has seen the records, the aforequoted ruling has no basis,” it pointed out.