Former solon Satur Ocampo, 17 others post bail

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 1) — Former lawmaker Satur Ocampo and 17 others accused of kidnapping have been released from police custody after posting bail. 

Ocampo, ACT Teachers Representative France Castro and 16 others were arrested for alleged kidnapping and failure to return 14 minors on November 29. According to leftist human rights group KARAPATAN, Ocampo and Castro were conducting a humanitarian mission along with teachers from lumad schools.

The Office of the Executive Judge of Tagum City, Davao Del Norte allowed Ocampo and his fellow accused to post bail on Saturday. 

Their legal counsel, Atty. Joel Mahinay, posted bail with a total of ₱1.44 million on charges of human trafficking, kidnapping and failure to return a minor.  Mahinay said the police only released the accused at 8 p.m., despite receiving two orders from the judge to present them in court earlier. 

"We clearly and categorically declare that the ₱80,000.00 cash bond posted by all the above-named respondents is for the cases they are charged and are pending before the Provincial Prosecutor's Office. The Police Officer or Military personnel or anybody who has custody of the above-named respondents are ordered to release them from custody and detention," the order by Executive Judge Arlene L. Palabrica read.

Palabrica said that while a police officer and lawyer named Padillo argued that the police officers of the Davao del Norte police stations involved were ordered not to release the accused, on the basis that preliminary investigations are still ongoing.

While Palabrica said that they "admire and appreciate our police force for doing their job", the rules of Criminal Procedure dictate that any person in custody who are not yet charged in court may apply for bail.

"Finally, as the above-named respondents are still presumed innocent and no information have been filed against them, their supreme right to liberty must be upheld," Palabrica added.

In a statement, KARAPATAN slammed the arrest of Ocampo and others, citing that they rescued the children from alleged harassment. 

"We strongly condemn these brazen attacks against Ka Satur, Rep. Castro and the 16 who aided the Lumad children, as we decry all forms of political persecution by the Duterte regime against human rights defenders and political dissenters," KARAPATAN said.