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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Court voids arrest of activist in ‘Bloody Sunday’ raid

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A regional trial court has dismissed the charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives filed against an activist who was arrested during the “Bloody Sunday” raid on March 7 that resulted in the death of nine other activists.

Tanauan City RTC Branch 6 Presiding Judge Ricuerdo Flores ordered the immediate release from jail of Erlindo Baez Custodio, unless he is being detained for other lawful reasons.

In dismissing the case, Flores said the search warrant issued by a Manila RTC judge that was the basis for Custodio’s arrest was null and void as it failed to specifically and sufficiently describe the place to be searched—one of the requisites of a valid warrant.

The warrant failed to include a description of the accused’s house that would distinguish it from other houses in Barangay San Vicente, Santo Tomas City, Batangas, the court said.

The prosecution also failed to present photos or documents to prove that Custodio’s house was the one specified in the search warrant.

Flores added there was nothing in the records that Judge Jason Zapanta, who issued the warrant, personally and thoroughly examined the applicant and the witnesses to justify the determination of probable cause for the issuance of a search warrant.

“There is nothing from which the court can infer whether the requisite examination was made and from which the factual basis for the probable cause to issue the search warrant was derived,” Flores said.

The defects in the warrant meant the search conducted on Custodio’s house was also null and void, the judge added.

“Under the Constitution, any evidence obtained in violation of a person’s right against unreasonable searches and seizure shall be inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice, which heads the inter-agency committee on extra-judicial killings, said it will release the committee’s findings on its investigation of the Bloody Sunday operation soon.

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