SC urged to investigate QC judge, others amid series of arrests of activists

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 14 2020 03:58 PM

SC urged to investigate QC judge, others amid series of arrests of activists 1
Family members of activists nabbed in separate operations last Dec. 10 are joined by human rights defenders in denouncing the arrests and red-tagging of the so-called "Human Rights Day 7", during a press conference at the Commission on Human Rights in Quezon City on Monday. The apprehension of a journalist and trade unionists, allegedly for illegal possession of firearms and explosives, happened on Human Rights Day. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — Human rights groups on Monday asked the Supreme Court (SC) to look into judges who allegedly issued questionable search warrants that led to "indiscriminate arrests" of activists.

Groups Kapatid, Karapatan and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) Metro Manila noted that the search warrants used against trade union organizers Dennise Velasco, Mark Ryan Cruz, Romina Raiselle Astudillo, Jaymie Gregorio, Joel Demate, and Rodrigo Esparago, and journalist Lady Ann Salem all emanated from Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 89 helmed by Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert.

The 7 who were arrested last week during International Human Rights Day have been charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Rights groups claimed the charges against the so-called 'HR Day 7' are "trumped up."

"Kapatid reiterates our call to the Supreme Court to investigate Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court who issued the search warrants leading to the arrest of the HR Day 7," Kapatid spokesperson Fides Lim said.

Aside from Villavert, groups said other judges, particularly in Cebu province, have also issued what for them are "questionable" search warrants against activists.

"Napakadali namang mag-imbento ng kuwento-kuwento. You can invent all the kuwento. But how to verify, how does the judge verify the veracity of the statements of the police who are put into question?” Karapatan secretary-general Tinay Palabay asked.

Human rights groups also raised the alarm that not only courts but other government agencies are being "complicit" to the alleged crackdown against critics of the administration.

"Hindi nakapagtataka kung makapag-produce pa sila ng mga bagong search warrant. Kaya nga ang panawagan natin ay naka-address hindi lamang sa mga korte kundi sa iba-ibang ahensya natin na huwag maging complicit dito sa crackdown on activism sa ating bayan," BAYAN Metro Manila chairperson Mong Palatino said.

The Makabayan bloc on Friday said they will file a resolution to investigate the alleged modus operandi of planting fake evidence to supposedly serve as basis for trumped up charges and subsequent detention.

They likewise urged the high court to take "judicial notice" of Villavert's actions, claiming her jurisdiction has become a "factory of warrants" against activists.

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