Tondo 3 must hold accountable those who arrested them–Karapatan

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)

Manila Court grants Tondo 3’s bail petition

Nasino, Moran and Bautista have to raise ‘staggering bail amount,’ however

The Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) granted the petition for bail of three activists arrested by the police in a raid of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan’s office in Tondo District in February 2019, including well-known political detainee Reina Mae Nasino.

In an order dated December 12, Monday, Manila RTC Branch 47 Presiding Judge Paulino Gallegos said the prosecution failed to prove that the evidence of guilt against Nasino, Ram Carlo Bautista and Alma Moran are strong.

Gallegos’ decision follows the Court of Appeal’s (CA) invalidation last August 31 of the search warrant used in the three’s arrest for “failure to meet the standards of a valid search warrant,”

The CA’s 12th Division added that “all evidence procured by virtue thereof are deemed inadmissible.”

The warrant was issued by Quezon City Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert who had been called a “one person factory of defective warrants” by human rights groups.

Nasino and Moran are ordered to pay a total of P420,000 each for the two charges filed against them while Bautista is ordered to pay a total of P570,000 for the three separate cases he is facing.

The three activists were charged with illegal possession of firearms and of explosives, a standard charge by the government against activists.

Celebrated case

Nasino became known after she lost her three month old infant River Emmanuelle who she gave birth to while in detention. The original 36-hour furlough to attend to her daughter’s wake was also severely shortened to six hours.

Jail guards also ran away with the infant’s body during the funeral that earned widespread condemnation nationwide.

Nasino’s mother Marites Asis said she is happy that her daughter would soon be free.

“Masaya ako at muli kong mayayakap ang aking anak. Madadalaw na rin naming magkasama ang puntod ni Mikmik (River Emmanuelle) sa sementeryo,” Asis told Kodao.

(I am happy that I would be able to hug my daughter again and we can visit Mikmik’s grave together at the cemetery.)

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-National Capital Region (BAYAN-NCR) said the court’s decision to grant bail proves that Burgos-Villavert’s order was “a big lie.”

“This is a huge slap on the face of [former president Rodrigo] Duterte and his cohorts in their fascism. They merely wanted to silence their critics and activists who stood up against them through arrests and the filing of trumped-up charges,” the group said.

The group called for donations for the three’s bail totalling P1.410 million.

‘Excessive amount’

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), counsels of the three detainees, in a statement said that the “staggering amount” is tantamount to an “excessive bail” that impairs their capacity to post bail.

NUPL President Rey Cortez said that while they are not unmindful of the fact that the Court may have merely followed existing procedures in setting the amount, the detainees may have to spend more time in jail before they could raise the amount.

“The irony of it all is that, through machination, they were deprived of their liberty ‘as easy as pie’, and have to move heavens just to regain what is rightfully theirs,” Cortez said.

“Bring them home for Christmas,” the lawyer appealed. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)