Cebu artist Bambi Beltran sues Mayor Edgar Labella, cops for rights violations

Cebu-based artist Maria Victoria “Bambi” Beltran filed complaints  against Cebu City Mayor Edgar Labella on Friday afternoon, June 19, claiming her rights were violated when she was arrested by the police in her home last April. 

The others named in the complaint were the following members of the Philippine National Police (PNP):

They are being sued for violations of the following laws:

The complaint also invoked Section 4(ee) of Republic Act 11469, or the Bayanihan Heal As One Act, to investigate the respondondents, because the said provision guaranteed that measures undertaken by the government should be subject to the Bill of Rights and all constitutional guarantees.

Beltran's lawyer Benjamin Militar said that police officials were included in the complaint because of the manner she was arrested.

"It is clear that the charge against Beltran was totally baseless, and she was arrested without a warrant, by entering her house and her bedroom without her consent and permission" Militar said. "Then she was threatened with handcuffs if she will not go willingly, brought to Camp Sergio Osmena, PNP Regional Headquarters, and kept there incommunicado by confiscating her cell phone and laptop," he added.

Militar said that the complaint hopes to hold officials who violate rights of citizens accountable for their action. "They violated all her constitutional rights under the Miranda doctrine, which is punishable under Philippine law," he added. "The manner she was arrested amounted to arbitrary detention.  And it is clear that it was Labella who ordered her arrest with the willing collusion of PNP Regional Director Ferro."

Beltran was arrested on April 19 for a Facebook post Labella called “fake news.” Beltran maintained that her sarcastic post linked to the coronavirus spread in Sitio Zapatera, Barangay Luz, in Cebu City was "satire."(READ: Cebu film writer arrested over Facebook post about coronavirus in Sitio Zapatera)

Since the pandemic began, there have been documented cases of Cebu residents who were either intimidated by politicians, visited by police, or arrested for their Facebook posts. (READ: CHR slams Gwen Garcia for publicly shaming netizen)

After Beltran was arrested in April, she was charged with violating Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Law; Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One law; and Republic Act 1132 or Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases. 

If convicted on those charges, Beltran could face 18 years in prison and a fine of up to P1 million.

Beltran's arrest received attention from national and international human rights groups, who criticized the action of the authorities as an attack on free speech. (READ: Human rights orgs urge gov’t to drop charges vs Cebu artist Bambi Beltran)

For fighting back against attempts by the government to repress her right to speak, Beltran was named Freedom of Speech Award laureate by international broadcaster Deutsche Welle in May, 2020. (READ: Taken after midnight, cuffed to a chair: The arrest of Cebuana artist Bambi Beltran)  –

Ryan Macasero

Ryan covers Cebu and the Visayas for Rappler. He covers all news in the region, but is particularly interested in people stories, development issues and local policy making.