Court orders release of Batangas town mayor for lack of probable cause

Tina Ganzon-Ozaeta

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Court orders release of Batangas town mayor for lack of probable cause
Mabini Mayor Nilo Villanueva and two his brothers were arrested in June for alleged illegal possession of firearms and explosives

BATANGAS, Philippines – A Batangas court has ordered the release of Mabini town Mayor Nilo Villanueva, citing lack of probable cause and jurisdiction in relation to the illegal possession of firearms and explosives case against him.

Judge Dorcas Ferriols-Perez of Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 84 in Batangas City ordered the release of Villanueva on Thursday, August 24.

Villanueva had earlier filed a motion to dismiss the case, citing the questionable issuance of a search warrant, inadmissable evidence, and lack of probable cause.

On June 17, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) arrested Villanueva and two of his brothers in separate locations.

The CIDG operatives – armed with a search warrant issued by Judge Mary Josephine Lazaro of the Regional Trial Court Branch 74 of Antipolo City – reportedly recovered a suspected explosive device when they arrested Villanuea.

In his motion, Villanueva argued that the search warrant was null and void as the issuing court had no jurisdiction over the case. His lawyer are claimed that the police and their witnesses fabricated their statements against the mayor.

The Villanueva camp also noted that the police violated rules on the use of body-worn cameras in the execution of warrants. 

The court found merit in Villanueva’s motion. “The right against unreasonable searches and seizures is one of the fundamental constitutional rights,” the court said in its decision. 

Under Section 2 Article 3 of the 1987 Constitution, “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge.” 

“The hand grenade seized during the implementation of search warrant is suppressed and excluded for being inadmissible evidence. There being no more evidence to support the charge in the information, this case is hereby ordered dismissed,” the court said. 

The court directed the immediate release of Villanueva unless he was being detained for some other lawful cause or causes. –

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