By EMILY VITAL
MANILA — A local court in Cebu dismissed the charges against eight protesters and bystanders who were arrested during a protest action against the Anti-Terror Law on June 5.
In a ruling, Presiding Judge Amy Rose A. Soler-Rellin of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) Branch 9 said that there was no sufficient evidence that the eight violated Republic Act 11332 or the law on mandatory reporting of notifiable diseases.
The Court explained that mandatory cooperation is only required to persons affected with the notifiable diseases and/or persons and entities assigned with the compulsory tasks and duties under the said law.
“While undeniably the COVID-19 pandemic is a global and local public health emergency, a sweeping generalization that the entire population is identified as being affected by such health event of public concern cannot simply be made,” the court said in its decision.
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) Cebu Chapter welcomes the dismissal of the charges.
“The dismissal of the criminal case against Cebu 8 validates our client’s steadfast assertion that their freedom to assemble such as organizing protest actions shall not be curtailed in the time of a pandemic and shall not be seen as repugnant to RA 11332. Amid the tide of unlawful arrests targeting activists and progressive leaders, RA 11332 cannot serve to prohibit our cherished fundamental rights and liberties. That this would guide law enforcement officers in executing the laws of the land without abusing their authority or office,” NUPL-Cebu said in a statement.
The group is hoping that the other charges, violation of Batas Pambansa 880 and simple disobedience, would soon be dismissed.
The eight protesters and bystanders, collectively known as Cebu 8, werearrested on June 5, 2020 during the Black Friday Protest held in front of the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu. They are Jaime Paglinawan, Joahanna Veloso, Al Ingking, Bern Can?edo, April Dyan Gumanao, Nar Porlas, and bystanders Clement Corominas and Janry Ubal.