Court acquits activist couple in Manila
Another Burgos-Villavert warrant dismissed
By Joseph Cuevas
A Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) judge acquitted two political prisoners on Wednesday, November 24, dismissing charges against them based on a search warrant issued by a controversial Quezon City judge.
In a 13-page decision, Branch 19 judge Marlo Mardazo-Malagar said that the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt Michael Bartolome and Cora Agovida’s ownership or possession of illegal firearms, ammunitions and explosives the police alleged were seized from the couple.
The polices’ Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) raided Agovida and Bartolome house in Sta. Ana, Manila on October 31, 2019, later alleging they found hand guns and a hand grenade during the raid.
In a text message, Atty. Katherine Panguban of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers told Kodao that the couple’s arrest sprung from the implementation of a series of “questionable” search warrants issued by Quezon City Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert in 2019 against Metro Manila based activists and rights defenders.
Burgos-Villavert also issued warrants against Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Metro Manila’s Ram Bautista, Manila Workers’ Unity’s Alma Moran and Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay)-Manila’s Reina Mae Nasino based on police information that the activists were part of a gun-running syndicate.
Other Burgos-Villavert warrants have been either quashed or junked by fellow judges, including the one used against journalist Lady Ann Salem and trade union organizer Rodrigo Esparago in December 2020.
Salem and Esparago were released last March after the Mandaluyong City RTC dismissed charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives against the two..
Womens group Gabriela said it welcomes the court decision, adding the development is a slap on the Rodrigo Duterte administration that has incessantly attacked activists and human rights defenders.
Agovida is Gabriela-Manila’s chairperson and regional spokesperson of Gabriela-Metro Manila while Bartolome is a Kadamay-Metro Manila organizer. #