A court here dismissed during pre-trial on Tuesday, September 8, one of 3 charges filed against 8 people who were arrested by the police during a demonstration last June protesting the anti-terror law.
Cebu City police arrested the group, collectively dubbed here as the Cebu 8, when they held a protest last June 4 near the gate of the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu. The cops said the rally violated a ban on mass gatherings under the prevailing general community quarantine (GCQ)
The Cebu 8 is composed of 6 protesters a and two bystanders.
Municipal Trial Court Branch 9 Presiding Judge Amy Rose Soler-Rellin dismissed the charges of violating the law on Reporting of Communicable Diseases.
The joint order released by the court said that RA 11332 or the Law on Reporting of Communicable Diseases did not cover any the Cebu 8.
To recall, those picked up by the police were human rights activists Jaime Paglinawan, Johanna Veloso, Bern Canedo, Al Ingking, Dyan Gumanao, and Nar Porlas. Clement Corominas and Janry Ubal, who claimed to be mere spectators to the demonstration, were also arrested by Cebu police.
Cases later filed against them were violating Law on Reporting of Communicable Diseases, rallying without permit and disobedience to an agent or a person in authority.
According to the court, however, RA 11332 only applied to persons who have been affected by notifiable diseases. The court pointed out that there was no allegation or evidence that suggested any of the 8 have been infected with or were suspected to have contracted the coronavirus disease.
“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 a health event of public concern cannot simply be made,” the joint order read.
The court also pointed out that the alleged violations against RA 11332 by individuals that make up Cebu 8 were not clearly defined.
National Union of People’s Lawyers Cebu, who make up the majority of the Cebu 8 legal team, said in a statement to media that the dismissal “only validates” their assertion that “their freedom to assemble such as organizing protest actions shall not be curtailed in time of a pandemic.”
The group also pleaded not guilty to the two remaining charges filed against them in the same court. – Rappler.com