Cebu City

4 years later, 7 arrested anti-terror law activists, bystander still face legal battle

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4 years later, 7 arrested anti-terror law activists, bystander still face legal battle

'CEBU 8.' Activists commemorate the fourth anniversary of the arrest of eight people during protests against the Anti-Terror Bill.

Ian Peter Guanzon/Rappler

Activists remember the ‘Cebu 8’ arrests with a protest and banner display at University of the Philippines Cebu campus

CEBU, Philippines – Progressive groups hanged a banner and staged a protest to commemorate the arrest of eight people, mostly activists, at the University of the Philippines Cebu (UPC) who opposed the passage of the then anti-terror bill, now the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 2020, four years ago.

The banner was displayed at the oblation of UPC, and various organizations attended the event, including Karapatan Central Visayas, Bayan Central Visayas, and the UPC University Student Council, on Wednesday, June 5. 

The eight, who were arrested during a peaceful protest at the main gate of UP Cebu on June 5, 2020, have been referred to as the “Cebu 8.”

Among the arrested individuals, seven were members of local progressive groups, while the other was a bystander who did not participate in the rally.

“Nakigduyog ang mga organizations para hinumdoman ang upat ka tuig nga kawalay hustisya gihapon ug ka walay resulta sa gipasaka nga tumotumong kaso,” said Dyan Gumanao, one of those arrested.

(Different organizations joined together to commemorate the four years of continued lack of justice and the unresolved trumped-up charges.)

The arrest of the Cebu 8 happened three months after the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After their arrest, the police accused them of violating Batas Pambansa 880 by conducting a rally without a permit and Article 151 of the Revised Penal Code by breaking quarantine protocols set by the local government.

They were also accused of violating Section 9(e) of the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act (RA 11332).

Presently, one of the three cases, the alleged violation of the law on Reporting Communicable Diseases stipulated in RA 11332, was dismissed by the Municipal Trial Court Branch 9.

The court stated that the law only applies to people affected by communicable diseases. The case was dismissed because there was no evidence or suspicion that the eight arrested individuals were infected with the coronavirus.

Gumanao recalled that the protesters were abiding by the health protocols, ensuring physical distance and wearing face shields and face masks. Despite this, they were still arrested.

The arresting officers, including members of the local Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT),  entered the premises of UPC, violating the 1989 UP-DND Accord, which was not yet abrogated at that time, and the 1992 UP-DILG Accord.

These accords prohibit the entrance of police and military forces into the university unless they are invited or authorized by university officials.

One of the lawyers who handled the case of the Cebu 8, Kristian Jacob Lora, said UPC Chancellor Liza Corro has stated that there was no coordination on the arrest nor a request from UP to the police for crowd control or to disperse protesters.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) Cebu has been helping the Cebu 8, and lawyers from the group are still working on the two remaining cases, which are the violations of Article 151 of the Revised Penal Code and Republic Act 11332.

Lora told Rappler that they filed a demurrer to evidence motion during the last week of May to respond to the pending charges.

According to Lora, a demurrer to evidence is akin to a motion to dismiss on the grounds of insufficiency of the prosecution’s evidence to establish a prima facie case or to instill conviction of the act.

“We anchored our demurrer to evidence basically on the ground that the elements of these crimes were lacking. Wala siya na-establish sa prosecution by any competent evidence (It was not established by the prosecution with any competent evidence),” Lora said. 

Lora asserted that the main issue is not whether or not the Cebu 8 is guilty of staging the protest, but rather a constitutional issue.

He said that if the Cebu 8 is convicted of the remaining cases in the lower court, then they would elevate the case to the Supreme Court.

Lora pointed out that there are still no precedent cases on the issue of an absolute ban on the constitutional right to peaceably assemble in times of health emergency.

“Absolutely, the prohibitions of mass gathering cannot and should not include our constitutional right to peaceably assemble,” Lora said. – Ian Peter Guanzon/

Ian Peter Guanzon is currently doing his internship with Rappler.

1 comment

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  1. ET

    It is very concerning that four years have passed, yet two of the three cases remain unresolved, leaving the legal issues surrounding the “Cebu 8” in limbo. Could anyone possibly figure out the cause or causes of such a delay? This situation reflects on the nature of our justice system.

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