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6 August 2012
CRIMINAL COMPLAINTS FILED vs PNP OFFICIALS et.al. FOR VIOLENT DISPERSAL DURING SONA RALLY
New, Young Lawyers Score Old, Bad Practice.
The human rights lawyers’ group National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) assisted members of various people’s organizations and those injured during the violent dispersal at the SONA rally last July 23, 2012 in filing criminal complaints before the Office of the Ombudsman against PNP officials and members of the anti-riot contingent.
In the 20-page complaint, Renato Reyes Jr. (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan), Cristina Palabay (KARAPATAN), Bishop Solito Toquero (United Methodist Church), Fr. Rennie Delos Santos (Iglesia Filipiniana Independiente), Leonardo Sabino (Promotion of Church Peoples Response) and community members of Bayan Muna and Kadamay filed criminal charges for violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 880 (Public Assembly Act) and physical injuries against PSupt. Mario O. Dela Vega, PSR Supt. Richard Fiesta, PSR Supt. Joel D. Pagdilao, PSupt. Marcelino DL. Pedrozo, Jr., and PSupt. Ronnie Montejo of the Quezon City PNP, and other John and Jane Does for their responsibility in the illegal blockade and the violent dispersal that left at least 84 rallyists injured.
Also charged were PNP human rights officers led by lawyer PSupt. Nicanor Salamera who were present and embedded within the police phalanx.
The complainants are represented mainly by young and new lawyers of the National Capital Region Chapter of NUPL who were also on hand at the SONA rally. Atty. Carlos Montemayor, of the NUPL-NCR chapter as well as the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) said:
“This should not only be a precedent but also a deterrent to the old, bad, predictable and even comical practice of the police and other law enforcement units of impeding, obstructing and disrupting an evidently legitimate and legal assembly. The fortress set up by the police is not only a violation but also a curtailment of a basic democratic and constitutional right to peaceably assembly. The law enforcers should be the first ones to comply and ensure respect for the law. That is what we were properly taught in law school. That is what we correctly answered in the bar exams.”
Atty. Montemayor added that the PNP officials’ statement that the rally was conducted without a permit is wrong and without legal basis. “The application for a rally permit was received at the Office of the Quezon City Mayor on July 10, 2012 but was not acted upon and hence, as BP 880 provides, the application is deemed granted after two working days by operation of law without need of any further document or action as the application itself ipso facto and ipso jure becomes the permit. It is just silly and plainly absurd to blindly and arrogantly require a written permit when none is necessary as it is the Constitution and the law that bestow the permit.,”he explained.
NUPL Secretary-General Atty. Edre U. Olalia concurred: “With the permit deemed granted by operation of law, respondents have no legal ground to block, delay, suppress, deny, disrupt or prohibit the exercise of the right of our clients to peaceably assemble to air their grievances and to seek redress with the government. What is even more ironic is that so-called PNP human rights officers were just standing there, either plainly ignorant of a simple law that they conveniently but wrongly invoke to suit their purposes or totally uncaring about rights violations happening right under their very noses. It is obvious that these officers were just deployed there for tokenism.”
The complainants alleged in the complaint that the PNP officials and personnel openly and continuously violated several sections of BP 880 such as failure to observe maximum tolerance, failure to display the required nameplates, violating the required buffer zone distance from the activity, and obstructing, impeding and disrupting a peaceful assembly.
Those who were injured likewise charged respondents with physical injuries for the inordinate use of force. The NUPL lawyers explained that the liability of the PNP officials stem both from the principles of conspiracy and command responsibility.
The NUPL likewise strongly assailed the seemingly unjustified inaction of city mayors in relation to applications for rally permits. Both Attys. Olalia and Montemayor stressed that “such apparently deliberate inaction palpably manifests the utter disregard in a quite nonchalant and even cavalier fashion of the citizens’ basic constitutional rights to free speech, assembly and redress of grievances -- rights whose assertion and exercise by rallyists like Complainants have benefitted those who are presently inside the revolving doors of political power themselves.”
Reference: Atty. Edre U. Olalia, NUPL Secretary General, 0917-5113373
Atty. Carlos Montemayor, NUPL-NCR, 0923-2228285