Democratic and rights groups call to disqualify judges issuing questionable search warrants from higher positions

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This article is available in Pilipino

Democratic and human rights groups trooped to the Supreme Court yesterday, June 5, to call for the disqualification of judges Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert and Jason Zapanta from positions in higher courts. Both are currently judges of regional trial courts. They are known for issuing questionable search warrants used in cases of political killings and arrests.

Villavert’s office, in particular, has been dubbed the “factory of search warrants” used by the military and police against more than 76 activists from 2018 to 2020. Zapanta, on the other hand, issued two search warrants used against 24 individuals in Southern Tagalog in March 2021. These warrants triggered the coordinated attack that resulted in the killing of nine activists on the so-called “Bloody Sunday.”

“We vehemently oppose Judge Villavert’s candidacy to positions such as Associate Justice of the Court of Appeals or Associate Justice of the Sandiganbayan. Her track record of violating human rights and her collusion with the Duterte administration’s crackdown on activists make her unfit for any higher judicial position,” according to Rep. Ferdinand Gaite, former Bayan Muna representative. Majority of the cases filed based on Villavert’s issued search warrants have been dismissed by the court which shows her abuse of power as a judge, he said.

Meanwhile, the group Kapatid sent a letter to the Judicial and Bar Council conveying the group’s “indignant opposition” to the nomination and appointment of the two judges to any higher position.

The cases resulting from the fabricated search warrant from Villavert include the illegal arrest and detention of NDFP consultant Vicente Ladlad, and his associates Alberto Villamor and Virginia Villamor.

“Judge Villavert’s tenure as Quezon City Executive Judge was nothing short of a judicial massacre, where the halls of justice were transformed into a grotesque theater of state-sanctioned oppression,” the group said. One of these cases was the arrest and detention of Reina Mae Nasino, which resulted in the denial of her rights and the death of her baby, River.

“Judge Burgos-Villavert’s judicial decisions…ignore the fundamental rights and dignity of individuals,” the group said. Her actions resulted in unnecessary suffering and the loss of an innocent life, it said.

AB: Democratic and rights groups call to disqualify judges issuing questionable search warrants from higher positions