A Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Tanauan City, Batangas, has junked the illegal possession of firearms and explosives charges filed against an activist who was arrested during the so-called Bloody Sunday raid conducted by police and military operatives in Southern Luzon provinces that resulted in the death of nine activists on March 7, 2021.
In an eight-page order issued by Tanauan RTC Branch 6 Presiding Judge Jose Ricuerdo P. Flores ordered the immediate release from jail of Erlindo Baez Custodio unless he is being detained for other legal reasons.
The trial court declared as null and void the search warrant issued by Manila RTC Branch 174 Presiding Judge Jason Zapanta against him, which led to his arrest and the filing of criminal charges against him.
Judge Flores noted that the subject search warrants failed to specifically and sufficiently describe the place to be searched, which is one of the requisites for its valid issuance.
The Tanauan RTC noted that the search warrant failed to include the description of the location of the residence of the accused sufficient to distinguish it from other houses in Barangay San Vicente, Santo Tomas City, Batangas.
The prosecution, according to the trial court, could have presented the pictures or documents to prove that Custodio’s house was the one specified in the search warrant but failed to do so.
Furthermore, Judge Flores observed that there was nothing in the records that would show Judge Zapanta personally and thoroughly examined the applicant and witnesses prior that would 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,” Judge Flores noted.
In light of the nullity of the search warrant, Judge Flores said the search conducted on the house of Custodio is also null and void.
“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,” Judge Flores stressed.
The Department of Justice (DOJ), which heads the inter-agency committee on extra-judicial killings (EJKs), said it will release the committee’s findings on its investigation with regard to the Bloody Sunday operation soon.