National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Esterlita Suaybaguio walked to freedom at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) offices at past 5 pm Friday afternoon, cleared of charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
With no available Quezon City barangay available to witness her release by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, the CHR agreed to be the venue of the process yesterday.
Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 219 judge Janet Abegos-Samar acquitted the women’s rights advocate of charges stemming from a search warrant issued by controversial QC executive judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert in 2019.
Suaybagio, alleged by the military as a high-ranking officer of the Communist Party of the Philippines, was arrested in an apartment building in Cubao, Quezon City early morning of August 26, 2019.
Suaybaguio told the court police officers pushed and pinned her to the sink after storming in, preventing her from viewing the commotion inside her apartment.
The activist said she was shocked to learn later that a police officer had allegedly found a 9MM firearm and a hand grenade inside her bag.
Suaybaguio’s acquittal was a triumph over government’s policy of trumped-up charges against activists, particularly NDFP peace consultants, her lawyers from the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) said.
“Her acquittal adds to the victory in a string of cases against activists which have been recently dismissed…We hope the dismissal of other fabricated charges (against other political prisoners) will follow,” the PILC said.
The law center noted similar warrants issued by Burgos-Villavert against journalist Lady Ann Salem and NDFP Negotiating Panel staff members Alexander and Winona Marie Birondo have been dismissed earlier.
Burgos-Villavert has been accused by rights defenders as a “warrant factory” after meeting with former police general Debold Sinas and subsequently issuing warrants used by the police to arrest activists.
The most controversial warrant issued by the judge was used to arrest women’s rights activist Reina Mae Nasino in 2020, who was then 7 months pregnant. Nasino gave birth while in detention to her child River who died weeks later. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)