“These afterthought nuisance charges are plain baloney. Police are either exceptionally ignorant of the law, routinely cannot understand it, or are covering up for their violations, or all of the above.”—Edre Olalia, secretary general of the National Union of People’s Lawyers
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — Progressive groups condemned the charges filed against the protesters during President Aquino’s 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA), saying it was a mere “retaliation” for complaints of human rights violations they filed against the police for the violent dispersal of the July 28 rally.
“We condemn in the strongest terms the Philippine National Police for filing trumped-up charges of malicious mischief and assault against SONA protesters. The belated charges are a retaliation for the complainants that we filed last Aug. 8 before the Commission on Human Rights and the Office of the Ombudsman,” Renato Reyes, secretary general of Bayan, said.
Reyes said the police blotter shows that the complaint against SONA protesters were filed on Aug. 8 at around 6:20 p.m., the same day that they slapped the police with human rights violations charges.
The group argued that the application before the Quezon City local government to hold a rally at the IBP road in front of Batasang Pambansa was deemed granted as stipulated in Batas Pambansa 880 when it failed to respond to the application within two working days.
The QC government’s belated reply, in a letter dated July 24, forbade the protesters, saying that “there is not enough space to assemble in the area without obstructing the free flow of traffic” and that they could instead hold the rally at the football field of the Quezon City Hall compound.
“It was the PNP that violated the law when it unleashed water cannons against the protesters and when one officer used a taser gun on a man and his daughter at the Sandiganbayan,” Reyes said.
He described the charges against them as a “shotgun case” as the respondents included all sitting representatives of the Makabayan bloc and everyone who spoke at the rally including Mae Paner and Dante Jimenez of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption.
In her Twitter account, Paner, also known as Juana Change, responded to a tweet, and said “I was in two places at one time nung SONA! Ayus!”
Though she spoke and delivered a fiery speech during the protest, Paner proceeded to the House of Representatives and was inside the plenary hall when Aquino delivered his SONA. She was reportedly guarded closely by members of the Presidential Security Group until she joined the representatives of the Makabayan bloc when they walked out of the plenary hall.
Jimenez, for his part, told Bulatlat.com that VACC was invited to speak at the rally about the real state of the nation’s peace and order. He added that he did not participate in the violent incident, referring to the dispersal of the protesters.
“We left after my speech. They accused us so easily without studying the facts of the complaint whether it is true or not,” he said in a text message.
“These afterthought nuisance charges are plain baloney. Police are either exceptionally ignorant of the law, routinely cannot understand it, or are covering up for their violations, or all of the above,” Edre Olalia, secretary general of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, said.
Olalia added that charges have no basis or legal ground to hold water.
“Some were not even at the rally at the subject time. It is plain harassment if not nonsense,” he said.
“Rallyists were justified to correct a clear and brazen violation of the law,” Olalia said.
“The fortress-like roadblocks obstructed, impeded, disrupted and effectively denied an assembly that has a permit by sheer operation of law and guaranteed by the Constitution, international covenants, local and parallel jurisprudence as well as the CARHRIHL (Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law),” he said.
“Police should observe the letter and spirit of the law if it has any wish or dream of arguably restoring the ordinary people’s trust and respect of the days of old,” said Olalia.
Reyes said they are prepared to fight the trumped-up charges.