Activist Amanda Echanis' home was raided for 5 hours before police came back with a search warrant and witnesses, peasant group Anakpawis said on Thursday, December 3.
Former Anakpawis party-list representative Ariel Casilao said a combination of soldiers and police raided the houses of Echanis and Anakpawis Cagayan chair Isabelo "Buting" Adviento in Baggao town in Cagayan around 3:30 am on Wednesday, December 2, without a search warrant.
"Dumating lang ang barangay officials around 8:30 to 9 am, may 5 oras po na nanatili na nasa loob ng mga bahay at kuwarto ang mga militar para sapat na magtanim ng mga armas at eksplosibo," Casilao said in an online press conference on Thursday.
(Village officials only arrived around 8:30 am to 9 am, meaning they had 5 hours inside the house and the rooms, which was enough time to plant guns and explosives.)
In a report shared to media, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) was armed with two search warrants dated November 27 both issued by Judge Sheila C Gacutan-Labuguen of the Municipal Trial Court of Baggao, Cagayan.
Lawyer Sol Taule said that what happened to Echanis and Adviento was a "modus" where policemen conduct two searches – one prior, and one after officially serving the search warrant.
"Ang modus ay pagpasok ng bahay, papadapain, pipiringan para hindi makita 'yung nangyayari. Tapos laging may two rounds of search magba-barge in, ilang piraso muna, then very quickly dun sila magpa-plant, then paglabas nila dun nila ipapatawag 'yung barangay to start kunwari 'yung formal search. So in short, nakapasok na sila bago pa dumating 'yung witnesses na taga- barangay," said Taule.
(The modus is to raid the house, order the occupants to drop, they're blindfolded so they won't see what's happening. There are always two rounds of search, they will first barge in and quickly plant evidence, then they will come out and call the village officials to pretend to start the formal search. So in short, they had already raided the house before witnesses from the barangay enter the picture.)
Adviento, who was not in his house when the raid happened, said that according to his wife's recollection: "Mga 6 to 7 na dumating yung CIDG dala-dala 'yung search warrant na nakapangalan sa akin." (The CIDG arrived between 6 am to 7 am with the search warrant that bore my name.)
Adviento said all the people in his household, including children, were asked to go out in the first raid. Adviento said his wife insisted on going inside to get hot water for coffee as it was cold, and there the wife noticed a plastic bag by their sofa that was not there before.
"Sinipa niya ang sabi n'ya mabigat kaya sabi ng asawa ko sa mga sundalo baka taniman 'nyo kami ng ebidensya at sinabi ng sundalo sa kanya tumahimik ka dyan misis, baka poposasan ka namin," said Adviento.
(My wife kicked it and felt it was heavy so she told the soldiers, "You might be planting evidence" and the soldier told her to shut up or else she might be handcuffed.)
Taule said Amanda was not shown a copy of the search warrant. Taule questioned this as she said every search must be authorized by a warrant shown to the subject, with witnesses and a proper list of the items police were searching for.
Amanda's lawyers will insist on getting copies of those warrants, as Taule pointed out that there must be separate warrants for each house, and separate warrants for each offense – one for firearms, and another for explosives.
Activists tend to scrutinize search warrants as part of their legal offense, but Taule said their experience has not been encouraging. She cited the arrest of Reina Mae Nasino when her lawyers could not even get the court to help them find records.
Attacking the validity of the search warrants is crucial as it can potentially void the search, and the eventual arrest.
In what appears like a template often used by authorities, activists are arrested for supposedly possessing illegal firearms and explosives under the principle of being caught in the act. When they are caught possessing such during the search, they can be arrested without a warrant and immediately jailed for a non-bailable offense.
In an interview on ANC on Thursday, General Debold Sinas, chief of the Philippine National Police, said Amanda was part of the underground movement, and that her "spouse" was a leader of the rebel New People's Army (NPA) in Cagayan.
"Hindi totoong wala siya sa underground... kaya 'nung natiktikan na may mga baril sa bahay nila nag-apply na kami ng search warrant," Sinas said.
(It's not true that she is not part of the underground, that's why when we had intel that she had guns in her house, we applied for a search warrant.)
Casilao slammed Sinas' accusation as a "whole script of red-tagging," or the practice of linking legitimate progressive groups to the underground NPA. There is no law that criminalizes communism in the Philippines.
Members of the NPA and activists that government links to them are charged with common crimes, usually murder and illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
"Amanda chose to silently organize communities in different municipalities in Cagayan. It doesn't mean she's a leader of the NPA," Casilao said in Filipino.
Casilao said that Amanda's "silent" work made it convenient for authorities to accuse her of working underground. Casilao pointed out that activists like Adviento, who is very visible, are also accused of being underground.
"If they can do that to known leaders, to a woman who had just given birth to a one-month-old child, they can do it to anyone they want to target. This is not just a concern of progressive groups, but a concern for everybody who voices dissent," Casilao said in Filipino. – Rappler.com