On April 19, 2020, at around 10:15 A.M, the six (6) volunteers of Sagip Kanayunan and Tulong Anakpawis relief drive – Karl Mae San Juan, Tobi Ajoc Estrada, Eriberto Laurinaria Pena Jr., Raymar A. Guaves, Roberto Cuadra Medel, and Marlon Lester Gueta – were arrested by the Norzagaray Police while they were to deliver relief goods/food packs to farmers in Norzagaray, Bulacan.
According to the police, the basis for their arrest is their violation of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) order of President Rodrigo Duterte under Presidential Proclamation 992, Series of 2020.
The proclamation declared a state of public health emergency throughout the Philippines due to Corona Virus.
The police also said that they violated Republic Act 11332 the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act.
Thereafter, the police filed cases against them at the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor (OPP) of Bulacan for violation of section 9 of Republic Act 11332, violation of Article 151 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) or Resistance and Disobedience to Persons in Authority or Agents of Such Persons, violation of section 4, Presidential Proclamation 992, and Attempted Inciting to Sedition.
Mr. Ariel Casilao, former Representative of Anakpawis Partylist who merely came to the aid of the six (6) volunteer relief workers was also arrested and charged for violation of section 9 of RA 11332 and for Usurpation of Authority under Article 177 of the RPC.
After inquest, the OPP-Bulacan issued a resolution finding probable cause only for violation of section 9 (d) of RA 11332 against the six (6) relief workers and Mr. Casilao; for Inciting to Sedition against the six (6); and for Usurpation of Authority against Mr. Casilao.
However, in an order dated May 13, 2020 which was just released today, the Presiding Judge of Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Norzagaray Bulacan, Hon. Julie Rita Suarez-Badillo, dismissed the charge for violation of Republic Act 11332. According to the court, travelling outside of residence without a travel permit or quarantine pass does not qualify as violation of section 9 (d) of RA 11332.
There was therefore no basis for the arrest of the six (6) volunteer relief workers. Their arrest was unlawful as what we have been saying all along. Corollary, their subsequent detention is also illegal. And the supposed evidence recovered against them for Inciting to Sedition should not admitted in evidence and that case for Inciting to Sedition should also be dismissed.
The order of the Norzagaray MTC though may not be considered a precedent as it was issued by a lower court and not the Supreme Court.
However, the rationale for the order of dismissal could still be used by other persons who were arrested and charged for violation of RA 113332.
Again, that law could not be used as basis for the arrest any person for travelling outside their residence without a travel permit or quarantine pass.
And as what we have been saying all along, the acts of the police of just arresting anyone who may be found outside of their residence is unlawful and illegal.
The police could not also use Presidential Proclamation 992 as basis for the arrest of anyone outside their residence.
The said proclamation is not a law and therefore cannot be a basis for their arrest. This is for which reason the OPP-Bulacan did not file a case against the relief volunteers for violating the said proclamation.
Neither can the police use RA 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act as basis for the arrest.
The said law does not also make criminal travelling outside of residence without a permit or quarantine pass.
The police who arrested thousands on the basis of RA 11332, or RA 11469, or on the basis of alleged violation of ECQ, may then be held criminally and administratively liable for their illegal acts.
They can also be held liable for civil damages under article 32 of the Civil Code.
And the volunteer relief workers are now readying the charges against the policemen who illegally arrested them.
Also today, the relief workers filed a motion to dismiss the Inciting to Sedition Case.
Like the case for violation of RA 11332, there is no basis for the charge for Inciting to Sedition.
And with more reason that the said case should be dismissed because that charge came about after the relief workers were illegally arrested and searched.
As there was an illegal arrest, there is consequently and invalid search.
Therefore, the alleged evidence recovered from them after their illegal arrest and search should not be admitted in evidence.
June 1, 2020 Quezon City Reference: Atty. Jobert I. Pahilga Executive Trustee E-mail: email@example.com Facebook Page: Sentro Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo