Supreme Court Overturns Marcos Order; Directs Release of Prisoners
MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ The Supreme Court today ordered the military to release a professor and a church worker jailed for five months on order of President Ferdinand E. Marcos for alleged subversion.
Lawyers said it was the first time the high court had ordered the release from military detention of any political prisoner covered by a presidential arrest order. It was also the second major defeat in court suffered by the government in less than two weeks.
On Dec. 26, the high court declared illegal a 1982 military raid on the offices of the opposition newspaper We Forum and ordered the government to return to its publisher the printing presses and other items that soldiers seized.
The two prisoners ordered today to be freed were Cynthia Nolasco, a social science professor at St. Joseph College, a suburban Roman Catholic school, and Willie Tolentino, a college scholar and lay worker.
The court set a hearing for Jan. 15 on the case of Mila Aguilar Roque, a professor at the same school who was also detained.
Soldiers seized the two professors as they rode in a jeep last August. Tolentino was arrested in a raid on Ms. Nolasco’s apartment.
The military accused the three of working with Communist groups and recommended their prosecution for subversion. A government prosecutor, however, rejected the military recommendation and said they could be charged only with possession of subversive documents, an offense punishable by a few months imprisonment. The prosecutor recommended bail for them.
Despite their posting of bail, the military refused to release the three, saying they were in jail on the strength of a presidential detention action, which empowers the military to jail suspected subversives indefinitely. Marcos’ arrest power has been denounced by human rights groups as unconstitution al.