A Philippine court on Tuesday, June 7, junked the cases filed against 19 urban poor residents who were arrested while pleading for food during the pandemic lockdown two years ago.
In an order dated May 30, 2022, Judge John Boomsri Sy Rodolfo of the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 38 said the residents were “within their rights when they went outside of their respective residences to plea for food.”
The court said that during that instance, the police officers “cannot compel” the protesters to obey the directive to go home.
On April 1, 2020, police arrested protesting residents of Sitio San Roque in Quezon City who were demanding food and assistance from the government at the height of the pandemic.
They were accused of violating the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Concern Act, Batas Pambansa 880, the Public Assembly Act of 1985, and the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.
They were also charged with resistance and disobedience to a person in authority.
“It’s unexpected as the judge previously denied our motion to quash, which we believe had strong grounds,” said lawyer Jocel Isidro Dilag of the Free Legal Assistance Group when reached for comment by LiCAS News.
“But at the same time it’s also expected in a sense that the facts have always been in favor of [the residents],” he added.
“They were simply there to receive assistance, nothing more. Hence, the state had no basis to arrest them and file charges against them,” he said, adding that the arrest was “unnecessary.”
“The case shouldn’t have been filed in the first place,” said Cristina Palabay of human rights group Karapatan.
She said the arrest of the residents reflects the “cruel and inhumane policies” of the government in responding to the pandemic.
Urban poor group Kadamay also welcomed the court’s recognition that it is the right of the residents to demand for sufficient food from the government.
“The dismissal of the case is not only justice for the [arrested residents], but also to all of those who were calling for their rights but were forcibly silenced by the fascist state,” said the group in a statement.
Kadamay called the legal victory as “a manifestation that in the eyes of the law, the fascist state can never step on the rights of the poor.”