By Atty. Edre U. Olalia
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On International Human Rights Day yesterday, December 10, the Philippine National Police (PNP) was on a spree, arresting journalist Lady Ann Salem and six trade union organizers. The PNP’s Criminal Investigation and Detection group said the raids were against a crime syndicate in possession of many guns, ammunition and explosives.
Curiously and ironically, those detained are human rights defenders. They have never figured in any crime but are, without exception, mere activists. The search warrants also came from Quezon City Regional Trial Court executive judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert who has repeatedly issued warrants that resulted in raids of offices and houses of activists throughout the country. All were charged with the same offense of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Deaths have also resulted from such raids, including the infant River Nasino who was born in detention and yanked away from his mother even when he contracted a life-threatening disease.
National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers president Edre U. Olalia explains why the police actions are not crime solving and prevention as it claims but are political acts that persecute citizens and violate human rights.
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1. Search warrants can be procured by going through the motions and by mere presentation even under oath of supposed witnesses from the authorities to claim that such materiel are supposedly in the possession of those to be arrested.
2. It is easy to plant these materiel whose possession are monopolized by the police and military especially if done at dawn or night and when the arrested persons are first segregated, controlled or neutralized and have no chance to prevent or witness such anomaly.
3. The routinary legal presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty is always invoked against serious claims that these are planted and irregular.
4. Possession of explosives is normally a non-bailable offense so you rot in jail meantime and need to go through a rigorous process over time to prove that the evidence of your guilt is not strong for you to avail of bail if you are lucky.
5. It is easier to convict on mere testimonial evidence that is rehearsed and developed over the years to “prove” mere possession of a thing and its “chain of custody.”
6. It fits into the false political narrative of the State that legal activists have links with the armed underground movement and are, therefore, “terrorists.”
7. It demonizes legal activists as plain criminals who are armed and dangerous and not fighting for a legitimate cause and issues of public interest through non-armed means and fora.
8. It sends a clear message of threat and intimidation that you can be next even if the first and last time you held a gun was when you were playing cops and robbers during childhood.
9. The authorities want to parade that – with all the arsenal of various firearms, explosives and ammunitions supposedly going around and purportedly being kept by open, legal and visible activists – they are incompetent, inutile and ineffective to keep “peace and order” with all its vast powers, draconian laws and measures and the strictures of the pandemic.
10. They don’t bloody care because they believe they are invincible and that there is forever apart from endless love. #