The seven suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) entered “not guilty” pleas during their arraignment Tuesday before Branch 51 presiding judge Ambrosio de Luna.
Arraigned for violation of Republic Act (RA) 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act and RA 9516 or Illegal Possession of Explosives Law were Glendhyl Malabanan, Jenny Ann Bautista, Ronces Paragoso, Bener Rimbuwan, Joelito Tanilon, Awing Lumpat, and alleged provincial NPA ranking leader Domingo Ritas.
Through their legal counsel, the suspects pleaded not guilty and maintained there were irregularities during their checkpoint arrest in Barangay San Jose on the night of October 4.
Atty. Maria Sol Taule, lead counsel of the defense team, in a press statement Tuesday said that they are challenging the legality of the arrest. She also said they intend to make the pieces of evidence immaterial and inadmissible during the trial.
“They should know that checkpoints must be done in plain view. They conducted a checkpoint and ordered them to stay out of the vehicle and showed them an arrest warrant where their names don’t obviously appear on it. They were again boarded in different vehicles and were brought to a police station. However, they stayed inside the vehicle for 30 mins. After which, they were again brought to another place to conduct a set-up second checkpoint where the gun and explosives were allegedly seized. This is a highly irregular procedure and against the law. All evidence in the hands of the military is considered inadmissible evidence. In our jurisprudence, such evidence is a fruit of the poisonous tree,” Taule said.
However, Judge De Luna ruled in favor of the prosecution and held the suspects to stand trial alongside the evidence.
When asked to comment on the videos released by the Western Command (WESCOM) during their arrival in court at around 1:30 p.m., Paragoso shouted in protest saying, “Palayain ang mga bilanggong pulitikal!”
No further comments were made by the legal counsel and the families right after the arraignment.