Human rights group Karapatan urged three activists recently acquitted of criminal charges to hold accountable those who arrested them more than three years ago.
Following the acquittal of activists Reina Mae Nasino, Alma Moran and Ram Bautista, dubbed the Tondo 3, by Branch 47 of the Manila Regional Trial Court last July 17, the group said those who conducted, enforced and justified their arrests must answer for their “convoluted and false testimonies.”
The Court said the prosecution witnesses’ conflicting testimonies caused serious doubts, such as whether the firearms and explosives were really found in the rooms they were allegedly found in.
Former Philippine National Police chief Debold Sinas, under whose leadership many activists were arrested and killed, should be among those held accountable for the three’s wrongful arrested and imprisonment, Karapatan said.
Sinas actively sought search warrants against activists from pliant executive judges, such as Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert, whose orders have resulted in mass arrests, even deaths, of activists, farmers and indigenous peoples, throughout the country.
In a statement, Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said they welcome Nasino, Moran and Bautista’s acquittal by Judge John Benedict of the trumped up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
“The decision of…Judge John Benedict Medina regarding the case bears out the assertion of the three activists – that there had no guns or explosives during their arrest, and that the evidence against them were planted,” Palabay said.
Arrested in a staff house in Tondo, Manila on November 2019, the Tondo 3’s case became celebrated when Nasino, who gave birth while in detention, lost her child River Emmanuelle a few weeks after birth when they were ordered separated by the government.
The infant’s burial also gained worldwide attention after jail authorities ran away with the remains, leaving behind relatives and supporters. The incident was described as inhumane.
“For three years, the three have endured the subhuman conditions at the Manila City Jail, away from their loved ones and their work as human rights defenders. Three years their lives in prison for charges they are innocent of,” Palabay said.
Karapatan said the other 778 political prisoners in the country also suffer from such
fabricated and baseless charges, nearly 300 of whom face the same allegations from the police and the military as Nasino, Moran and Bautista’s.
“We echo the call for release of all political prisoners who are unjustly detained. We demand a halt to these forms of judicial harassment and legal offensives against activists and ordinary folks,” Palabay said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)