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A Quezon City cour has waived jail time and imposed a minimal P200-fine on each of the 38 members of urban poor group Kadamay who were found guilty of trespassing on a property in Tandang Sora 4 years ago.
Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 43 Judge Don Ace Mariano Alagar convicted the 38 urban poor residents of other forms of trespass under Article 281 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).
"The court understands that accused were driven by self-preservation under the circumstances and will thus impose the penalty of fine instead of imprisonment," said Alagar in the decision promulgated on Tuesday, February 23.
The Kadamay members occupied a fenced property in Tandang Sora on April 2, 2017, their residence for 3 decades until their makeshift homes were demolished July 2016 by the local government for being fire hazards, according to the court's record.
Republic Act No. 10951 actually increased the fine on other forms of trespass to a maximum of P40,000 but it was only signed into law in July 2017, or 3 months after the incident. Alagar imposed the old RPC fine of not exceeding P200.
Generally, penal laws cannot be applied retroactively if it prejudices the accused.
"The system of criminal law followed in the Philippines, true to the ways of constitutionalism, has always leaned toward the milder form of responsibility, whether as to the nature of the offense or the penalty to be incurred by the wrongdoer," said the judge.
The court's record showed that mediation did not succeed, resulting in a 4-year trial and a judgment where the State only stands to earn at least P7,600.
Since 2017, Kadamay has figured in other controversial occupation, including the occupation of empty housing units in Pandi, Bulacan. (READ: Why P600-a-month housing is still a burden to the poor)
According to the decision, the Kadamay members lived on the streets for 9 months after their homes were demolished.
But due to the impending clearing operations of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the residents had nowhere else to go.
Under Article 11 of the RPC, there is no criminal or civil liability if you are able to prove a justifying circumstance, one of which is state of necessity. State of necessity exists "when there is a clash between unequal rights, the lesser right giving way to the greater right."
Kadamay members said the MMDA clearing operations created a state of necessity.
The court did not agree.
"MMDA enjoys the presumption of regularity and therefore lawful and legal. It is not an evil that must be avoided. Also, the evil sought to be avoided- –the alleged clearing operations of the MMDA – is merely expected or anticipated," said the judge.
The urban poor residents were also sued for grave coercion for allegedly threatening the security guards of the property, but the court dismissed these charges earlier. The residents alleged that they were harassed by cops who dispersed them.
Kathy Panguban of the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL), who handled the case, said that some of the 38 residents have built makeshift homes in front of the disputed property, and some have been able to rent elsewhere.
There were 41 on the charge sheet, but 3 have died since the trial began, including senior citizens Tirso Mangubat and Mark Anthony Roadilla. The two were among the 8 senior citizens arrested and held for days in Camp Karingal in 2017. – Rappler.com