A second unionist was arrested on Thursday, March 4, with a search warrant of the same allegation and from the same judge, leading a human rights organization to ask if the country’s courts have become factories of “bogus search warrants.”
Lakas ng Manggagawang Nagkakaisa sa Honda and Alyansa ng Manggagawa sa Enklabo member Arnedo Laguinias was arrested at his house in Barangay Pulong, Sta. Rosa, Laguna by Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) operatives.
Like Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees National Council member Ramir Corcolon who was arrested at 4:30 AM at his home in San Pablo City, Laguna yesterday, Laguinias is alleged to have illegally possessed a rifle grenade.
Instead of rifle grenades, however, the police claimed they found identical .45 caliber handguns at both raids.
Laguinias was an illegal surveillance, harassment and red-tagging victim of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict last year that alleged the unionist is a high-ranking official of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army, human rights group Karapatan Southern Tagalog said
Laguinias and Corcolon are detained at the PNP-CIDG Southern Luzon headquarters at Camp Vicente Lim in Canlubang, Laguna.
The search warrant used to raid the unionist’s home was also issued by Sta. Cruz (Laguna) Regional Trial Court (RTC) Presiding Judge Divinagracia Bustos-Ongkeko.
‘Factories of bogus search warrants’
Karapatan said the Judge and her Court are “notorious” for issuing “bogus search warrants.”
The group likened Burgos-Ongkeko with fellow Sta. Cruz, Laguna Judge Cynthia Mariño-Ricablanca and Quezon City Regional Trial Presiding Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert as “factories” of orders that inevitably result in planted evidence.
Karapatan revealed that Mariño-Ricablanca have in the past issued invalid warrants against Calaca, Batangas sugar cane farm workers who the police accused to have illegally possessed guns and explosives.
The charges against the farm workers were later dismissed because the search warrant, aside from its inherent irregularities, violated due process, the group said.
Burgos-Villavert’s search warrant against journalist Lady Ann Salem and labor union organizer Rodrigo Esparago was also dismissed by the Mandaluyong City RTC as it violated due process and inconsistencies in the testimonies provided by the police.
Karapatan accused Burgos-Villavert as the most notorious among the three, having issued the most warrants that arrested activists in Metro Manila and Negros island with the same allegations: illegal possession of guns and explosives.
One such order by Burgos-Villavert resulted in last year’s arrest of women’s rights activist Reina Mae Nasino who was seven months pregnant when Bagong Alyansang Makabayan’s Tondo, Manila office was raided by the same police unit: the CIDG.
Nasino was forced to give birth while in custody, but was denied the chance to nurse her infant.
Karapatan said it appears that some judges have become accomplices in the Rodrigo Duterte’s “witch hunt” against activists. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)