CA voids search warrants used vs activist Reina Mae Nasino, 2 others

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 5) — Fresh hopes mount for the release of activist Reina Mae Nasino, who gave birth to Baby River while jailed in 2020, after the Court of Appeals nullified the search warrants used to arrest her and two other activists.

"Search Warrants Nos. 5994 (19) and 5945 (19) are declared void for failure to meet the standards of a valid search warrant, and all evidence procured by virtue thereof are deemed inadmissible," a recently issued decision of the CA 12th Division read.

Activists Ram Carlo Bautista and Alma Moran were also arrested in 2019 on the basis of search warrants issued by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court that led to the supposed seizure of illegal firearms and explosives.

In the 36-page CA decision penned by Associate Justice Emily San Gaspar-Gito, she noted that there was grave abuse of discretion when the documents supporting the applications for the search warrants indicated different addresses. The barangay officials present in the actual search were also not from the same barangay indicated in the warrants.

She added that policemen "stubbornly referred in all their documentations" the wrong address of Bautista, "thereby camouflaging their mistake, perpetrating their mistake, and misleading everyone with such mistake."

"These apparent irregularities in the application and implementation of the subject search warrants are more than enough to debunk the presumption of regularity of performance of official duties," the decision read.

It added that even if the warrants were only addressed to Bautista, Moran and Nasino were still subjected to the search, were hand-tied, and were made to lie face down.

"Clearly, petitioners' right against unreasonable search and seizures was blatantly trampled upon," it said.

The search in Bautista's room was also not made in his presence. He was required to leave the room while the search was being conducted.

"It was only when he was brought back to his room, this time in the presence of the barangay officials, that the seized items were shown to him," the decision read.

Section 8, Rule 126 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure states that a search under the strength of a warrant is required to be witnessed by the lawful occupant of the premises to be searched.

The CA decision did not specify if the cases of the three activists would now be immediately dismissed. Concurring with San Gaspar-Gito were CA Associate Justices Eduardo Peralta, Jr. and Walter Ong.

Nasino's case made the headlines a few years ago as she was arrested while pregnant in 2019. She initially filed a petition before the Supreme Court requesting for an early release due to her pregnancy. She also asked to be allowed to care for Baby River at the hospital or the prison nursery after giving birth in 2020.

Both of these requests were denied, and the local court separated them until Baby River struggled with lung complications.

Baby River died of pneumonia on Oct. 9, 2020 without reuniting with her mother.

READ: Baby River Nasino laid to rest, but road to burial filled with tension