Criminal charges junked vs activist arrested March 7 in police-military raids in Batangas

Published November 1, 2021, 12:33 PM

by Jeffrey Damicog

Trial Court

The Tanauan City regional trial court (RTC) in Batangas has dismissed the charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives filed against an activist who was arrested during the joint police-military operations in Southern Luzon provinces where nine activists died last March 7.

Granted by RTC Judge Jose Ricuerdo P. Flores was the motion to dismiss the charges, to nullify the search warrants, to suppress the evidence, and to recall the arrest order filed by Erlindo Baez Custodio.

With his ruling, Judge Flores directed the Tanuan City police to release Custodio immediately “unless he is being detained for some other legal reasons.”

Custodio was charged with violations Republic Act No. 10591 and Presidential Decree 1866 as amended by RA 8294 and RA 9516.

He was one of those arrested last March 7 during the police-military operations to ferret out alleged communist rebels in Cavite, Laguna, Rizal and Batangas provinces.

The operations also resulted in the deaths of nine activists. The Department of Justice (DOJ), which heads the inter-agency committee on extra-judicial killings (EJKs), said it will release very soon the committee’s findings on its investigation.

Custodio was allegedly caught by the police in possession of a handgun, a hand grenade, and ammunition.

In his order, Judge Flores stressed that the search warrant must “specifically describe the place to be searched and the things to be seized.”

In the case of the search warrants served on Custodio, “the warrants failed to specifically and sufficiently describe the place to be searched,” Flores said.

The judge also said: “There is no description of the location of the accused’s house sufficient to distinguish it from other houses in Barangay San Vicente, Sto. Tomas City, Batangas. There is great doubt as to the location of the intended subject of the search warrant and the seizure operation.”

At the same time, Judge Flores agreed with Custodio that the Manila RTC judge who issued the search warrants did not make a thorough examination of the police application for search warrants.

“There is nothing from which the Court can infer whether the requisite examination was made and from which the factual basis for the probable cause to issue the search warrant was derived,” Flores stressed.