Nasino’s lawyer hopes for her immediate release

Court of Appeals declares another Burgos-Villavert warrant defective

A lawyer of jailed activist Reina Mae Nasino hopes for her immediate release and two other fellow activists after the Court of Appeals (CA) voided the warrant used for their arrest.

In a decision dated August 31, the 12th Division of the CA said the search warrant used by the police to arrest Nasino and fellow activists Ram Carlo Bautista and Alma Moran in 2019 failed to meet standards of validity.

The Court added that the evidence presented by the Philippine National Police for obtaining the warrant were inadmissible.

Upon learning of the decision, one of Nasino’s lawyers said they are working on her, Bautista and Moran’s release at the soonest possible time.

“Hopefully, maparelease na sila agad. Mag-uusap kami on what to do with their pending case sa trial court,” Atty. Kathy Panguban of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said.

(Hopefully, they will be released immediately. We will discuss what to do with their pending case before the trial court.)

The three were arrested in a midnight raid on November 5, 2019 by the Philippine National Police at Bagong Alyansang Makabayan’s Tondo, Manila office and were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives, a standard non-bailable charge against activists.

Nasino’s imprisonment became more controversial when she learned she was several weeks pregnant when arrested.

She eventually gave birth to her daughter River while in detention, despite pleas from her family and petitions by her lawyers for her release on humanitarian grounds.

Lacking maternal care, the infant died after three months. A Manila Court initially gave the grieving mother two days furlough to attend to her infant’s wake that was later reduced to just six hours.

At the infant’s funeral, jail personnel ran away with the cadaver, leaving family members and supporters behind.

The incident earned global condemnation against the “heartlessness” of the Rodrigo Duterte regime.

Irregular warrant

In its decision voiding the warrant, the CA pointed out that the police presented three different addresses in the documents it submitted while applying for the warrant.

The search was also conducted at a different address without the presence of barangay officials who have actual jurisdiction of the area.

“These apparent irregularities in the application and implementation of the subject search warrants are more than enough to debunk the presumption of regularity of performance of official duties,” the CA said.

The defective warrant was among the series of controversial ones issued by Quezon City Regional Trial Court Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert  that were eventually quashed by other judges.

Other defective warrants issued by Villavert included those used to arrest journalist Lady Ann Salemn and union organizer Rodrigo Esparago on International Human Rights Day (December 10) 2020, activists and unionists called the Negros 57 on Halloween (October 31) 2019, and National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace talks staff Alexander and Winona Birondo in July 2019.

Villavert had been dubbed by human rights groups as a “defective warrant factory” whose credibility in issuing such warrants is “questionable”.

“The Supreme Court must investigate and hold Judge Villavert accountable for her travesty of justice by using our courts for judicial harassment and political persecution, along with other similar judges who have been involved in the issuance of questionable search warrants and their lying accomplices in the police,” human rights group Karapatan said in August 2021. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)