Habeas corpus filed at SC for release of youth activist held by army

MANILA, Philippines – The family of youth activist Alexandrea Pacalda went to the Supreme Court on Monday, September 23, to file a petition for habeas corpus to demand the release of Alexandrea who is still being held by the military.

Alexandrea, former editor of the student publication of the Manuel S. Enverga University in Lucena City in Quezon province, was arrested without a warrant on September 14 by soldiers later identified to belong to the army's 85th Infantry Battalion.

Alexandrea is a volunteer of Pinag-isang Lakas ng Magsasaka sa Quezon (PIGLAS-Quezon), a local peasant organization in Quezon province.

According to the petition, Alexandrea was interrogated without the presence of a lawyer.

"She was asked about her personal circumstances and how she was recruited as an activist. The soldiers also mentioned names and made Alexandrea verify if she knows them. She was also forced to identify some alleged New People's Army (NPA) members," said the petition.

Alexandrea's father Arnulfo said that he saw his daughter "weak and was obviously deprived of sleep." Arnulfo is a petitioner for the release of his daughter.

Surrender?

Arnulfo was convinced to sign a certification, which was later found to be an affidavit of voluntary surrender. 

Lieutenant Colonel Dennis Cana, spokesman of the Armed Forces Southern Luzon Command (Solcom), told the Inquirer that they are willing to accept Alexandrea as a rebel returnee. 

Captain Benedict Alfonso Cagatin of the Army’s 201st Infantry Brigade also told the Inquirer that they have brought Alexandrea to the prosecutors' office for inquest, but declined to say what the charges were.

"It is very evident from the above-mentioned circumstances that Alexandrea Pacalda is being held and detained by the 201st Brigade in Calauag, Quezon, without charges and legal basis since September 14, 2019," said the petition.

The petition adds: "Her illegal detention resulted in the continuous and blatant violation of her constitutional rights."

The petition asks for a writ of habeas corpus, the Latin phrase for "produce the body," and which can compel the army to explain to the court why Alexandrea is still in their custody, and to present her to the court itself.

The court also has the power to judge if Alexandrea should be released. 

Alexandrea's arrest comes at the height of the Duterte administration's clampdown on the Left, with the interior department pushing for the restoration of the Anti-Subversive law, which makes criminal mere membership with the communist party.  Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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