After freeing activists, Mandaluyong judge gets red-tagged in an EDSA tarp

After freeing two activists and clearing them of charges, a Mandaluyong judge was red-tagged in a tarpaulin along the busy EDSA thoroughfare in Shaw.

Photos showed a tarpaulin "thanking" Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 209 Judge Monique Quisumbing-Ignacio for her "quick action" in freeing "mga kasama (our comrades)." The logo of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) appeared on the tarpaulin.

"Hindi natin alam kung sino ang naglagay, pero alam naman natin sino ang mahilig ngayon sa tarpaulin. At kung sino ang mahilig sa ganyang tarpaulin na hayagang nangre-redtag," Bayan Muna Representative Ferdinand Gaite told Rappler.

(We don't know who put it there, but we know who is fond of doing tarpaulins. And who is fond of putting out tarpaulins that brazenly red-tag.)

Ignacio cleared journalist Lady Ann "Icy" Salem and trade unionist Rodrigo Esparago of charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Ignacio also voided the search warrants of Quezon City Judge Cecilyn Burgos Villavert, who is notorious to activists for issuing search warrants that resulted in dozens of arrests over the last two years.

Ignacio freed the two a month after her initial resolution, despite opposition from the local prosecutor.

A photo of the tarpaulin in daylight, unfurled fronting EDSA, was sent to Rappler late Tuesday afternoon, March 16, while a photo at nighttime showing the tarpaulin inside a different footbridge was tweeted by Gaite late Tuesday night.

Gaite said his photo was taken by members of indigenous peoples group Sandugo.

"The tarps speak for themselves. Independent, fair minded judges are under attack. Who has the motive to produce such inanity other than those extremely fond of red-tagging. Their handiwork will boomerang on them," said Fides Lim, spokesperson of prisoners' rights group Kapatid.

Marco Valbuena, who tweets as CPP's chief information officer, said, "CPP disowns tarp found in Metro Manila in w/c CPP/NPA/NDF purportedly thanks judge who dismissed case against 2 HRDay polprisoners."

This recent development adds up to a string of incidents that threaten members of the legal profession. Calbayog police intelligence chief Lieutenant Fernando Calabria Jr earlier asked their local court for a list of lawyers representing alleged communists.

Calabria was relieved after the Philippine National Police disowned the move. The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that a month before this, police in Luzon had been digging around for archived cases and warrants against alleged communists.

"The courts are under attack," said Gaite.

National Union of Peoples' Lawyers president Edre Olalia said this latest incident sends "a very chilling effect on judges."

"It sends a very chilling effect on judges who would stand up for truth and is an open attack on the independence of the judiciary. They want everyone to be on their side of the ring with a two-dimensional thought process: If you are not for us, then you are against us," said Olalia.

The Supreme Court is under pressure to address attacks and threats against lawyers, prosecutors, and judges. New data showed 61 lawyers have been killed in the five years that President Rodrigo Duterte has been in office. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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