MANILA - A Quezon City court on Tuesday dismissed charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives filed against National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF) consultant Rafael Baylosis and a companion.
In a 27-page decision, the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 100 granted Baylosis’ demurrer to evidence, a plea to dismiss a case due to insufficiency of evidence.
Baylosis was arrested with a certain Roque Guillermo in Quezon City on January 31 last year.
He was the first consultant to be rearrested after President Rodrigo Duterte scrapped government's peace talks with the communist rebels and declared the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People's Army, as terrorist organizations.
Baylosis was released in 2016 to participate in the peace talks. He was detained for murder charges over his alleged role in a massacre in Inopacan, Leyte in 1985.
Early reports said police recovered 2 caliber .45 pistols, 14 live ammunition and 2 magazines from the two. Baylosis was also charged with carrying a hand grenade.
But according to Judge Editha Mina-Aguba, the arrest and search were illegal.
The judge said both accused “were not doing anything” at the time they were seen by the arresting officers, thus, the case could not be considered a warrantless arrest.
Under the Rules of Court, warrantless arrests may only be done when a person is in the act of committing a crime, or if a police officer or a private citizen has probable cause based on personal knowledge that a person to be arrested has just committed a crime.
It may also apply to a person who escapes detention or imprisonment.
The judge noted that the arrest was made based on a report of an informant and doubted the claim of one of the seven arresting officers who allegedly noticed the “bulging waistlines” of the two accused.
“The arrest of the accused being illegal, the subsequent search on the persons of accused and the purported confiscated items cannot be used as evidence against them,” the court said, citing an evidentiary rule that items seized from an invalid search and seizure could not be used as evidence against the accused.
The court took note of inconsistencies in statements of 3 police officers as to how and when they met with the informant, how the conversation with the informant transpired, who approached the two accused, and who saw the evidence recovered from the accused.
“The foregoing, patently, destroyed the credibility of the arresting officers; the same rendered their testimonies unreliable. As such, this Court cannot attach the presumption of regularity of performance of their functions. Besides, the same cannot prevail over the presumption of innocence of two accused,” it said.
The court went further to fault the witnesses for failure to establish when the arrest was actually made.
“Under the circumstances, this Court can only surmise that the arrest took place after the recovery of the evidence from the possession of two (2) accused and before they were brought to Camp Crame. The same is impermissible. Otherwise stated, it is viewed that the confiscation of the subject items is illegal. It is not a product of a search incidental to a lawful arrest, or a stop and frisk search, or the plain view doctrine,” it explained.
As regards the possession of a hand grenade, the court said prosecution failed to present proof that Baylosis did not have authority to possess the explosive, thus, the crime is not deemed to have been committed.
In dismissing the cases against Baylosis and Guillermo, the court ordered the former's release from the Special Intensive Care Area-1 in Bicutan, Taguig.
It also ordered the release of the P120,000 cash bond Guillermo had posted.
The Department of Justice earlier tagged Baylosis, an alleged communist leader, as a terrorist but was cleared in July 2018 by a Manila court, along with United Nations Special Rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and Jose Melencio Molintas.