By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Iloilo City”s Municipal Trial Court Branch 7 acquitted the 42 activists who were arrested while holding a protest to demand justice for slain Bayan Muna Iloilo coordinator Jory Porquia on May 1, 2020.
Among those arrested also are church workers, members of community media and a lawyer.
In a resolution dated Oct. 14, Presiding Judge Radney Reginaldo Garcia said that the 42 accused are acquitted of simple disobedience under Article 151 of the Revised Penal Code for failure of the prosecution to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
This day also marked the 62nd birthday of Porquia.
Garcia said that “there is no simple disobedience that transpired when the accused were arrested by the police authorities.”
It was during the height of the lockdown measures due to COVID-19 when the activists held an indignation rally after the killing of Porquia. The police arrested those who were present and pressed charges against them for violating Executive Order No. 48 for non-observance of social distancing and non-cooperation under RA 11332 and RA 11469 or Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.
But the court said there is no specific penalty of imprisonment or fine in the said issuances.
In a post on social media, Fr. Marco Sulayao of Iglesia Filipino Independiente (IFI) thanked those who supported them as well as the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers who assisted them in the said case.
Based on the video footage presented before the court, the judge said that there was no disobedience or resistance to arrest.
For one, Garcia said that the act of the leaders in asking the basis for their arrest is neither resistance nor disobedience. “Under the Rules, a police officer making an arrest without a warrant is required to inform the person to be arrested of the cause of arrest.”
Garcia also said that NUPL lawyer Angelo Karlo Guillen, Kervin Bonganciso, John Ian Alenciaga, Julrod Prino and other media correspondents and all other accused “could not be convicted of simple disobedience because they… did not perform such act of disobedience to the police officers not only during the time of their arrest but even immediately before the said arrest.”
Sulayao’s raising of handcuffed hands while shouting “Makibaka, huwag matakot” also could not be considered as simple disobedience.
The judge said that in the video, Sulayao voluntarily offered his hands. “… even removed his sling bag so that the officer arresting him can easily handcuff said accused.”
There was also no indication that all other accused resisted the arresting officers.
In a statement, Kabataan Partylist welcomed the decision of the court. The group said that the Iloilo 42 should not have been arresed in the first place “as their protest was a demand for justice for the murder of activist Jory Porquia.”
“We condemn this unlawful arrest when the police should’ve searched for and arrested the murderer responsible who, until now, remains free. Iloilo 42 being cleared of all charges is a manifestation of their innocence because seeking justice is not and never will be a crime,” the group said.
They added that the acquittal of the Iloilo 42 is a step closer to justice for Porquia.
The group said that the call for justice for Porquia and all other victims of rights violations will continue for as long as those responsible for his death are not arrested and the culture of impunity remains. (RTS, RVO)