The Department of Justice (DOJ) was criticized on Monday, Feb. 15, by an advocacy group for “blocking the release from jail” of journalist Lady Ann D. Salem and unionist Rodrigo S. Esparago
“No less than the trial court said that the instant cases ‘have no leg to stand on.’ With this, we express concern why DOJ prosecutors are barring the release of the two whose rights were clearly violated when they were illegally arrested by government forces,” Kapatid spokesperson Fides Lim said in a statement.
Salem and Esparago were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives after their arrest at their respective homes on International Human Rights Day last Dec. 10 by the Philippine National Police (PNP).
The Mandaluyong City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 209 subsequently issued on Feb. 5 an order which dismissed the charges against the two accused and ordered their release from detention.
However, the Mandaluyong City Prosecutor’s Office filed a comment dated Feb. 9 asking the RTC to reconsider its ruling dismissing the charges and allowing the two accused to be freed from detention.
Lim expressed support to the position of Salem and Esparago’s lawyers that “the court’s decision to grant the motion to quash the search warrant used against Salem and Esparago and declare the ‘illegally seized’ evidence against them as inadmissible is ‘tantamount to an acquittal.’”
“With the court’s ruling that dismissed the cases filed against them, there is no reason why they should still be kept in prison. Obviously, the government, through the Department of Justice opposes Salem and Esparago’s release as it wants to perfect its plan – to prosecute and persecute those who bravely speak against injustices,” Lim said.
“The Department of Justice’s moves clearly show how this government desperately attempts to weaponize the law to intimidate and harass dissenters. Their bid to stop the court from releasing Salem and Esparago protects the perpetrators and enablers of trumped-up charges and enforces impunity,” she added.