Former political detainee seeks judge’s disqualification from higher posts

A “dismayed” former political prisoner posed strong opposition to the candidacy of a controversial regional trial court judge to the appellate courts, citing the magistrate had been a factory of spurious search and arrest warrants against unionists and activists.

In an open letter to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), Dennise Velasco sought the disqualification of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 89 Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert as a candidate for various higher positions in the judiciary, including Associate Justice of the Court of Appeals (CA) and Associate Justice of the Sandiganbayan (SB) as well as Ombudsman Special Prosecutor (OSP).

“As a former political prisoner who fell victim to the issuance of questionable search warrants by Judge Villavert, I cannot stay silent. Between 2018 and 2020, this judge issued numerous questionable search warrants that led to the arrest and filing of trumped-up charges against 76 activists,” Velasco wrote.

Velasco said that Villavert’s controversial decisions were based on Supreme Court (SC) Administrative Order AM No. 03-8-02 that was later reviewed and amended due to efforts of human rights organizations and civil libertarians that questioned the order.

“During that time, issuing search warrants was used by state security forces under President Duterte’s command to arrest and even kill activists,” he added.

Velasco was among the unionists, activists and journalists arrested last December 10, 2020 on Villavert’s order but was later freed due to lack of evidence. They were charged with the standard illegal possession of firearms and explosives used against activists by the government.

Human rights organizations such as Karapatan revealed that Villavert colluded with then equally controversial Philippine National Police chief Debold Sinas in issuing the warrants that caused the arrest of dozens of activists.

“Following the Supreme Court’s decision (to amend its order), we called for a judicial audit to hold abusive judges like Judge Villavert accountable for their actions,” Velasco revealed.

The unionist said there was clear evidence that Judge Villavert abused her position to violate the rights of those activists she targeted.

“The majority of cases based on her issued search warrants were eventually dismissed by the RTC and CA,” he said.


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Some Kodao and Bulatlat reports mentioning Judge Villavert.

Velasco, then an organizer of labor group Defend Jobs Philippines, said the court that tried him declared that the search warrant issued by Judge Villavert violated his constitutional rights and the rules of court.

Four of the six others arrested with Velasco remain in jail however, except fellow labor organizer Rodrigo Esaparago and journalist Lady Ann Salem.

Prominent political detainees arrested from Villavert’s warrants also include National Demoratic Front of the Philippines peace consultants Vicente Ladlad and Renante Gamara.

“Where is the justice in allowing Judge Villavert, who has a track record of human rights violations, to seek positions in the judiciary? We are still awaiting the Supreme Court’s promise to review complaints against judges involved in human rights violations, especially Judge Villavert?” Velasco asked the JBC.

“I am appealing for the immediate disqualification of Judge Cecilyn Burgos Villavert from being considered for a higher position in court. We fear she could cause further damage to the justice system and society as a whole,” he added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)