MANILA, Philippines – As the Court of Appeals (CA) resolves whether to order the release of a detained youth activist, Solicitor General Jose Calida called the 23-year-old “pa-victim” (acting like a victim).
The CA 3rd Division will resolve the petition for the writ of habeas corpus of 23-year-old activist Alexandrea Pacalda – a petition that demands Pacalda’s release based on the premise that she was illegally detained.
“This petition is nothing but a pa-victim case on the part of the petitioner…and the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL),” Calida said in a return of the writ submitted on behalf of the Philippine Army to the CA on October 10.
Pacalda was arrested without a warrant on September 14 by soldiers later identified as belonging to the army’s 85th Infantry Battalion (IB). The 85th IB later claimed she was caught with a caliber .38 gun and 4 blasting cups.
Supreme Court issues writ
The petition was originally filed before the Supreme Court (SC) on September 23, after which the SC issued the writ on October 2.
Based on procedure, the SC tasked the CA to hear the case and it will be the CA that will decide whether to grant the privilege of the writ – or to put it simply, to order Pacalda’s release.
However, on September 23, the military charged Pacalda with illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Calida said this makes the petition for the writ of habeas corpus moot because there is now legal basis to detain the youth activist.
Charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives are non-bailable. Pacalda was transferred from military custody to the provincial jail of Quezon after charges were filed.
Pacalda’s lawyer, Rey Cortez of the NUPL, acknowledged that the charges are legal basis to detain her.
Cortez insisted, however, that the military still committed the violation of illegal detention when they arrested Pacalda without a warrant on September 14, and held her without legal basis for 8 days until September 23 when the charges were filed.
“Ang gusto lang namin makuhang ruling ay mag-rule na ang arrest at detention were illegal. At least magagamit na basis to file a motion to dismiss,” Cortez told Rappler in a phone interview on Thursday, October 31.
(What we want now is just a ruling saying that the arrest and detention were illegal. At least we can use that as basis to file a motion to dismiss.)
Was the arrest illegal?
Calida echoed the military’s defense that Pacalda already admitted to being a member of the New People’s Army and that she was willing to surrender. Two affidavits of voluntary surrender served as their basis.
Pacalda claims she was made to sign the affidavits under duress after 24 hours of sleep deprivation and “mental torture.”
“She was forced to sign the affidavit of voluntary surrender because she was not in full possession of her mental faculties due to sleep and food deprivation, psywar, and mental torture since the day of her illegal arrest,” said the NUPL in its memorandum sent to the CA.
The military said they caught Pacalda with firearms and explosives on September 14, but did not charge her at first due to the affidavit of surrender.
Calida cited Section 13 of the Rules on the Writ of Habeas Corpus, which states that “if it appears that the prisoner is in custody under a warrant of commitment in pursuance of law, the return shall be considered prima facie evidence of the cause of restraint.”
That provision, Calida said, means that the court should declare the arrest and detention as valid.
“If the detention of the prisoner is by reason of lawful public authority, the return is considered prima facie evidence of the validity of the restraint,” said Calida.
The CA is expected to rule soon. – Rappler.com