Manila Today Editor-in-Chief Lady Ann Salem and trade unionist Rodrigo Esparago were ordered released on orders of Judge Monique Quisumbing Ignacio of the Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court on 5 March 2021. The judge declared that the search warrant used to enter Salem's home is invalid, rendering the firearm and explosives purportedly found in her home as inadmissible evidence before the court.
Despite the court’s orders however, Duterte government prosecutors still attempted to keep Salem and Esparago in jail. Their lawyers, volunteers from the Public Interest Law Center, were able to assert that the orders are final and executory, allowing the two to eventually walk out of prison.
Salem thanked Judge Quisumbing-Ignacio for “seing the truth behind the fabricated charges.” She thanked all those who supported the campaign for her release and that of labor organizer Rodrigo Esparago.
Both were arrested on 10 December 2020, together with other labour leaders Denise Velasco of Defend Jobs Philippines, labor center KMU-Metro Manila Deputy Secretary General Romina Astudillo, KMU-Metro Manila Executive Committee Member Mark Ryan Cruz, KMU-Metro Manila member Jaime Gregorio, Jr., and Solidarity of Labor Rights and Welfare officer Joel Demate. A few days earlier, Jose Bernardino of the Workers' Alliance was also arrested.
Rodrigo Esparago is a founding member of the Quezon City Labor Force. He is a labor organizer among hotel and construction workers, janitors and worker communities in Metro Manila. Aside from Manila Today, Salem is also the Communications Officer of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television.
Their arrest on trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives met with immediate international condemnation. The Global Unions called on international bodies, the UN Human Rights Council and the International Labor Organizations to consider as an emergency the deterioration of human rights conditions in the Philippines and to employ all official and diplomatic avenues available, including sending missions to investigate the human rights and trade union represesion in the Philippines.
The Council of Global Unions is composed of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), ten Global Union Federations (GUFs) and the Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The PILC lawyers said the other labor leaders remain in detention. “We hope that the other victims of the trumped-up charges resulting from the implementation of this void search warrant will be released from detention.” The campaign for their release continues both in the Philippines and in the international arena.