A petition for writ of habeas corpus has been filed before the Supreme Court seeking the immediate release of former Communist Party of the Philippines leader Rodolfo Salas, alias “Kumander Bilog.”
Through lawyers from the Free Legal Assistance Group, Salas’ son, Jody, also pleaded the Supreme Court to issue a temporary restraining order enjoining the Manila City Regional Trial Court Branch 32 from proceeding with the communist leader’s arraignment for multiple counts of murder.
Salas was nabbed last February 18 in Angeles City, Pampanga through an arrest warrant for 29 counts of murder in connection with the Inopacan massacre in Leyte, which were allegedly committed by the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the CPP in the 1980s. He is now detained at the Manila City Jail.
Judge Thelma Bunyi-Medina of RTC Branch 32 in Manila issued the arrest warrant on Aug. 28, 2018 in connection with the two criminal cases.
The petitioner told the SC that Salas is being illegally detained “in violation of his right to due process as a protection against hasty, malicious, and oppressive prosecutions, and his right against being put twice in jeopardy of punishment for the same offense.”
“Only the Court’s issuance of the Writ of Habeas Corpus and the grant of the Privilege of the Writ can remedy these continuing violations of Rodolfo’s Constitutional rights,” the petitioner said.
The petition for writ of habeas corpus asks the Court to order concerned authorities to present Salas before it.
The writ of habeas Corpus requires an official to produce before the court detained person and justify why he needs to be restrained. Failure to justify the legality of the detention would mean the detained person’s freedom.
Jody’s lawyers argued that Salas’ right to due process has been violated when the State prosecutors filed the murder charges without giving him the right to contest the allegations.
“At no point in the proceeding did Rodolfo receive any subpoena from the public prosecutor requiring him to answer. The first time he found out about it was in the news wherein he heard that there was a case filed against him in Leyte,” the FLAG lawyers said, adding that Salas only learned of the criminal case in the news.
The petitioner also argued that Salas is protected by the Hernandez-Enrile political offense doctrine which, according to the Supreme Court means “everything done” including “destruction of life and property” is considered only as one offense –rebellion.
“The Hernandez-Enrile doctrine changed the legal landscape in favor of persons who have been accused or convicted of not only rebellion, but also those who will be accused of all common crimes performed in furtherance thereof,” FLAG said quoting a Supreme Court ruling.
Salas has been convicted of rebellion in 1991. He was sentenced to suffer six years and one day of imprisonment which he has already served.
FLAG lawyers said that by prosecuting him again, his right against double jeopardy (being charged of the same offense twice) has been violated.
“By placing Rodolfo in second jeopardy for murder when the State has actively negotiated for and entered into a plea-bargaining agreement that was used as the basis to secure Rodolfo’s conviction for Rebellion in 1991 – a crime which absorbs and includes murder – the State has not only violated Rodolfo’s right against double jeopardy but also to due process of law.”
FLAG lawyers pointed out that after Salas completed serving his prison sentence, he “worked on re-building his life with his family,” but the case has placed him in the same position as he was more than three decades ago.