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NUPL calls on SC to review issuance of warrants in Bacolod raids

The National Union of People's Lawyers (NUPL) called on the Supreme Court (SC) to review the issuance of the warrants which led to the arrest of some 62 activists in Bacolod City last week.

In a statement on Sunday evening, the NUPL said that the warrants may have been political in nature, and that they may have been abused and weaponized.

"In the interest of truth, due process, and justice and to ensure the independence of the judiciary, we as officers of the court respectfully call on the Supreme Court to look into the seemingly irregular issuance of search and arrest warrants essentially based on political designs," said the NUPL.

Using these warrants, the Philippine National Police arrested officers of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Gabriela Negros Center, and the Negros Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) in a series of Bacolod City raids.

The Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives has since condemned the raids, which were conducted by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and the Philippine Army's 3rd Infantry Division, the Joint Task Force Negros, and the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office.

"The NUPL also urges the Supreme Court to review the rule on issuance of search warrants in special criminal cases which is or may be abused and weaponized by any branch of government to forum shop to silence dissent and criticism, slow down legitimate advocacies, foment fear and intrigue, and penalize the exercise of basic rights to association, speech, assembly, petitions for redress of grievances, and public participation," said the NUPL.

The lawyers group also proposed a review of several rules, such as the custody in illegal possession of firearms and explosives, the non-bailability of illegal possession of explosives, and the plain view doctrine.

It also called for the appropriate bodies to revisit the presumption of regulatiry of official duties, the use of generic John Doe warrants, the rules of amparo and habeas corpus, and other steps to address "problem areas" which they said were "being used to criminalize legitimate political activity."

"As the perceived bastion of fairness and justice, the Judiciary must relentlessly maintain its independence against actual or perceived interference and pressure exerted by other government branches," said the NUPL.

"The bench and its members must not let themselves be used, or appear to be used, wittingly or unwittingly, as tools or minions of political persecution. Only then will the bold search for facts to warrant trust and confidence in judicial independence and integrity be served," it added.

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) earlier claimed that security forces planted evidence during their raids in Bacolod, supposedly under the "tanim ebidensya modus."

For his part, National Capital Region Police Officer acting chief Police Brigadier General Debold Sinas defended the arrest of a Gabriela Manila chapter chairperson and her husband for illegal possession of firearms. — Jon Viktor Cabuenas/DVM, GMA News