‘Not yet,’ prosecutors say on journalist Salem’s release

Published February 12, 2021, 3:00 PM

by Jeffrey Damicog

Government prosecutors have opposed the release from jail of journalist Lady Ann D. Salem despite the dismissal by the Mandaluyong City regional trial court (RTC) of the charges of illegal possession of firearms filed against her.

In a comment dated Feb. 9, Mandaluyong City Senior Assistant Prosecutor Queruben R. Garcia asked the RTC to deny the urgent motion for Salem’s release filed by her lawyers.

“The Order of Dismissal, received by the City Prosecutor’s Office on 05 February 2021, has yet to attain finality. Ineluctably, the Prosecution will seek relief therefrom,” Garcia said.

“Sans (without) conclusiveness, the Order dismissing the charges against Accused Salem remains subject to reconsideration or appeal, rendering improper her plea for immediate release,” he stressed.

But Salem’s lawyers said the dismissal “drawn upon the quashal (nullification) of the search warrant and consequential declaration that the seized evidence is inadmissible as evidence, is one tantamount to an acquittal.”

Her lawyers from the Public Interest Law Center said “our rules on criminal proceedings require that a judgment of acquittal, whether ordered by the trial or the appellate court, is final, unappealable, and immediately executory upon its promulgation.”

“Thus, it is immediately executory. The defense invokes the finality-of-acquittal rule,” her lawyers added.

Salem, an activist and editor of Manila Today, was arrested at her home last December 10 on International Human Rights Day by the Philippine National Police- Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) during the enforcement of a search warrant.

Following her arrest, she was charged with illegal possession of firearms which her supporters claim was trumped up since the evidence against her were planted.

The RTC subsequently issued an order dismissing the charges as it granted the motion to quash filed by Salem’s lawyers and declared the search warrant null and void; expunged from records the evidence seized against her; and declared as inadmissible the evidence being used against her.

 “All told, there being numerous inconsistencies and contradictions, the testimonies of the foregoing witnesses cannot be given full faith and credence,” the trial court ruled.