Journalist freed a month after acquittal

Emmanuel Tupas (The Philippine Star) - March 6, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — A month after they were acquitted on charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives, journalist Lady Ann Salem and labor union organizer Rodrigo Esparago finally walked free yesterday.

Salem, editor of online news portal Manila Today, and Esparago, left the Mandaluyong City Jail at past 6 p.m., ending a three-month detention.

“We were not expecting that today would be our release,” a visibly emotional Salem told reporters in an interview.

Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court Branch 2019 Judge Monique Quisumbing-Ignacio yesterday ordered Salem’s and Esparago’s release after junking the motion for reconsideration filed by prosecutors for lack of merit.

The court acquitted the two last Feb. 5 but they remained in jail for one more month after the prosecution blocked their release.

In a four-page order, Ignacio maintained prosecutors failed to establish probable cause as the witnesses they presented made inconsistent statements.

The court reiterated its earlier decision that the search warrants which agents of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group used when they raided Ignacio’s condominium unit last December 2020  are null and void.

The Public Interest Law Center (PLLC), which represented Salem and Esparago during the trial, praised the court for its decision.

“The order is a breather in the midst of the continuing attacks against journalists and lawyers,” the PLLC said in a statement.

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