MANILA -- (UPDATE) Rights group Karapatan on Sunday decried authorities' alleged planting of evidence during raids against activists in Bacolod City, Negros Oriental last Thursday.
Some 59 persons were arrested and high-powered firearms were seized in regional offices of militant groups based on 4 search warrants issued by a Quezon City judge, authorities said.
Karapatan, however, said the seized firearms were "mere Halloween dirty tricks by the Duterte regime to discredit and silence its critics amid growing public discontent on the regime’s anti-people policies."
“Truly, the real horrors and monsters of today come in uniform, expensive barongs, and suit and ties that perpetrate State terrorism in surreptitious and deceptive ways,” Karapatan vice chairperson Reylan Vergara said in a statement.
“The mass arrest of 59 individuals in one day of terror is as an alarming sign of the government’s intensifying efforts to crack down on its critics amid the people’s growing clamor to mobilize against the fascist regime."
Among those arrested were peasant leaders, trade unionists, human rights defenders, cultural workers, a community journalist, women’s rights activists, Karapatan said.
The rights group also questioned the search warrant issued by Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 89 “whose jurisdiction does not even fall on a city hundreds of miles away from Quezon City.”
“The Duterte regime is a big Halloween trick, but if the State thinks terrorizing the people will be effective, it is gravely mistaken: it is merely accelerating the horror of its own downfall,” Vergara said.
Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta has ordered the Court Administrator Midas Marquez to "remind judges to be deliberate, circumspect, and prudent with the issuances of warrants," according to Supreme Court spokesperson Brian Keith Hosaka.
Marquez' office, however, noted that Manila and Quezon City executive judges are authorized to issue search warrants which may be implemented nationwide provided that the legal requirements are met.
Aggrieved respondents may file a motion to quash the issuance of the search warrant before the court that issued it or before the court where the cases were filed, Hosaka said.
The military earlier said the joint simultaneous operations were legitimate.
"With the voluminous war materials that we have, it will be very impossible for the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police team to produce all these war materials that we have recovered," said Capt. Cenon Pancito, spokesperson of the Philippine Army's 3rd Infantry Division.