Case of filmmaker, friends shows need for public awareness of warrantless arrest

From left: Jade Castro, Dominic Ramos and Noel Mariano —CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS

The practice of warrantless arrest and the necessity of public awareness of its workings was highlighted in the recent release of filmmaker Jade Castro and his three friends from a jail facility in Catanauan, Quezon.

Castro, sales manager Ernesto Orcine, and civil engineers Noel Mariano and Dominic Ramos were freed at 7.30 p.m. on March 11, 40 days after their warrantless arrest in Mulanay, Quezon, on suspicion of arson. They were released on the strength of an order by Judge Julius Galvez of Catanauan Regional Trial Court Branch 96 who ruled their arrest as “illegal.” 

Police authorities said the filing of a motion for reconsideration or a new case is being considered.

In a press conference in Quezon City on March 12, the ex-detainees’ lead lawyer, Mike Marpuri, said warrantless arrests are common in Mulanay. Unfortunately, some of those arrested are innocent of the crimes of which they are accused but poverty deprives them of the right to legal counsel, he said. 

Human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, adviser of the legal team, said the problem with a warrantless arrest is that there is “no case buildup.” Such an arrest is allowed only when the police witnessed a crime or were present when it was occurring, he said. “But in practice, it becomes subject to abuse,” he added, citing the many such cases their law office has been handling.


Castro and his friends were arrested on Feb. 1 in Mulanay on suspicion of burning a modern jeepney in Catanauan some 30 minutes away. 

At the press conference, Castro said he and his “travel buddies” were visiting towns and sitios off the beaten path in Quezon to join the locals in their celebration of fiestas and community events. 

It was not for creative work. “I wish I can say it was for research, but hindi talaga,” Castro said. “We were there for a vacation.” Mulanay was an easy pick because, aside from the male pageant scheduled, “it was the title, and location, of a film by Gil Portes, starring Jaclyn Jose,”  he said.

The Mulanay police relied on statements by “witnesses” who positively identified Castro and his friends, and dismissed the testimonies of Mulanay government employees that the four men were having dinner in an eatery just a few minutes after the jeep burning.

According to records, the Mulanay police followed a lead and visited the resort where Castro et al. checked in the night before. The police left and came back late in the afternoon and invited the four men for questioning. Only then did Castro and his friends know that they were being arrested.

Castro said he was optimistic that they would be released after questioning. They spent the night in the precinct. The next day, Castro sent a message to Moira Lang, another filmmaker and close friend, saying that he expected them to be released by the afternoon.  

But things got complicated when they signed a waiver granting the police the authority to detain a suspect past the prescribed 36 hours without a case being filed. The incident demonstrated that even filmmakers or engineers and sales managers can be led to confusion and to eventual agreement to something with little knowledge of its implications. 

It took 40 days for Castro’s optimism to bear fruit.

Strengthened bond

But it was those 40 days that strengthened the four men’s bond of friendship. They shared a detention cell where they were able to tell stories, play games, and lift one another’s spirits. 

They got to know the other detainees, one of whom has been held for eight years on a murder charge supposedly only because his body type is the same as the unknown perpetrator. They shared with the others the food they received from their visitors. Mariano was even named “mayor” (chief) of their cell. 

The detainees became friends because of a common experience. 

Mariano recalled that there are many others like themselves in the jail facility: “Madami pang iba doon na pareho namin nabiktima ng warrantless arrest,” he said.

Also at the press conference, lawyer Carmela Peña prodded Castro to produce infomercials on warrantless arrest to help the public, perhaps including police officers, better understand the law and the processes of arrest and detention. 

Ruby Castro joins her son, Jade, in the press conference to thank the media and Jade’s supporters.

Castro, who is known for such films as “Endo” and “Zombadings,” said the reason for their detention might be to highlight warrantless arrest, bring it to public discussion, and prevent it from happening to others.

Mariano and Ramos (Orcine was with his family and was not present at the press conference) said family and friends, particularly the film community, gave them enough support to keep them hopeful. 

During their detention, members of Castro’s family stayed in a nearby hotel to be able to see him every day. The four men received daily visitors who brought food and news they needed to hear. 

Castro said he wept when he learned that his colleagues had issued a statement of support for him. “The Directors’ Guild of the Philippines is known to make its stand on important social issues,” he said, “Only then did I realize I am important, too.”

The support they received helped Castro and his friends survive the many afternoons of waiting for the iron bars to open for them.

“If there’s one lesson here, it’s this: Let us give hope,” Castro said. Huwag natin ipagmaramot ang pagbibigay ng pag-asa.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.