By Atty. Rachel F. Pastores, managing counsel, Public Interest Law Center
PEACE talks staff Alexander and Winona Birondo are due for release today after charges against them by policemen failed to prosper in court. Two sets of charges against them have been referred from inquest to preliminary investigation by the Quezon City prosecutor’s office, allowing their release from detention.
In separate orders, prosecutors were hard put to find probable cause against the Birondos, who were accused first of obstruction of justice and direct assault and later, of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
The police have been caught up in their own yarn of lies, which were starkly exposed under legal scrutiny. One prosecutor’s resolution called attention to general statements failing to specify the criminal acts; the other pointed out that the Birondos were not inside the room where the alleged firearms and explosives were found.
As in persecution cases, however, police have been quick to the draw with arrests, but slow pokes when it comes to releases. Despite the clear orders, the Birondos remain in detention at Camp Caringal, with the police citing procedural requirements.
Police have bungled up the case since day one. Together with other erring law public officers, they face significant counter-suits for violation of administrative procedures and criminal laws. The filing of trumped-up charges against those involved in the peace talks must stop.