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CA affirms voided search warrants vs journalist, trade unionist

THE COURT of Appeals (CA) has upheld a trial court’s voiding of search warrants against a journalist and labor organizer who were arrested for illegal gun possession in 2020.  

In a decision dated Jan. 27, the CA Twelfth Division said there was no probable cause for the law enforcers to seize journalist Lady Ann Salem and Rodrigo Esparago’s laptops and cellphones.  

“The act of the searching officers in taking all the laptops and cellphones that they could get during the search is precisely the danger sought to be prevented by the constitutional requirements that the things to be seized must be particularly described,” the court said.  

It added that the items seized did not “bear direct relation to the offenses for which the search warrants were issued.”  

A Mandaluyong regional trial court in 2021 junked the gun charges against the two and ordered their release, saying their arrest lacked probable cause.  

In a statement on Tuesday night, the Public Interest Law Center, which represents Ms. Salem, welcomed the decision saying it affirmed constant errors and abuses by police officers in carrying out search warrants.  

Kapatid, a political prisoners support group, has said there is a trend of dubious warrants being issued against activists.  

“We support the release of all other political prisoners taken to jail on false charges, and warn against the taking of anymore,” Public Interest Law Center said. — John Victor D. Ordoñez

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