The NUPL vowed to file countercharges against the police “to teach them a lesson that they are supposed to be law enforcers and should respect the rights of citizens.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – For performing their duties as lawyers, one was arrested and another got hurt.
On Feb. 24, some 400 members and consumers were protesting what they call as “unfair and monopolistic practices” of the Albay Electric Cooperative (Aleco) in Legazpi City, Bicol. Policemen arrested three protesters, including Vince Casihilan, spokesman of Karatapan-Bicol; Hernan Certeza, organizer of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU)-Bicol and youth artist Karl Canata.
When lawyer Bartolome Rayco, chairman and counsel of the Aleco Multi-Sectoral Stakeholders’ Organization (AMSSO), presented himself as lawyer of Casilihan, he was also arrested. The police chief casually said, “Isama na yan.” (Take him with them).
The four, including Rayco, also chairman of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) – Albay, were charged with grave coercion and malicious mischief. In a statement, the NUPL said the four were not read their Miranda rights, or the rights of the persons arrested and were not given any information on the charges being brought against them.
When law professor Madonna Escio, NUPL vice president for Luzon, tried to intervene as part of a quick reaction team (QRT), she was injured in the scuffle.
Eventually, Casihilan, Certeza, Canata and Rayco were freed after the prosecution ordered their release.
“These kinds of arbitrary arrests are outrageous. Freedom of speech and assembly are basic rights and this is a clear and violent move against these rights,” the NUPL said.
“The fact that this happened to Attys. Rayco and Escio is also disturbing. Lawyers should be allowed to do their jobs. To arrest or obstruct members of the legal community exercising their profession and their own rights over a controversial assembly is stomping over the good faith that should be given to attorneys,” the group said. “The way in which they and the assemblers rights were violated is a disgrace.”