Mandaluyong City RTC affirms Feb. 5 ruling, orders release of journalist Salem, trade unionist Esparago

Published March 5, 2021, 6:22 PM

by Jeffrey Damicog

Journalist Lady Ann D. Salem and trade unionist Rodrigo S. Esparago have been ordered released by the Mandaluyong City regional trial court (RTC) which affirmed its dismissal of the charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives filed against them.

In an order dated March 5, RTC Presiding Judge Monique A. Quisumbing Ignacio denied the motion for reconsideration of the prosecution which sought to overturn her Feb. 5 order that dismissed the charges.

Judge Ignacio granted the separate motions of Salem and Esparago who sought their release.

“The Jail Warden is ordered to immediately release accused Lady Ann Salem y De Leon and Rodrigo Esparago y Santos, unless they are being held for some other lawful cause,” the court order stated.

Salem and Esparago were among seven persons arrested last Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day, from their respective residences by policemen who were serving search warrants.

Their supporters said charges against them were trumped up since the weapons and explosives that were recovered were planted.

In her March 5 order, Judge Ignacio pointed out the inconsistent statements made by the police officers and their informant.

“As held by the Supreme Court, conflicting statements and declarations of law enforcers/witnesses destroy their credibility. Moreover, the evidentiary presumption that official duties have been regularly performed can be overcome by a showing that law enforcers involved deviated from the standard conduct of official duty provided for in the law,” she said.

She agreed with Salem that “the subject Search Warrants may be quashed and declared void for lack of probable cause due to deliberate falsehood committed by applicant police officers and their alleged informant….”

She also took Salem’s argument that the police informant “has no personal knowledge on the alleged illegal activities to justify the issuance of the subject search warrants” and that “there are inconsistencies in the statements of the informant.”

She pointed out that based on evidence, Salem moved into her residence at Avida Tower on Oct. 23, 2020 and “this reinforces the court’s finding that the informant is not a credible witness as he testified that he met Esparago and Salem in May 2020 at Avida Tower and that they made deliveries of firearms, ammunitions and hand grenades from May to October 2020 which they allegedly got from Esparago at the said unit.”