Lawyer, 8 journalists, 33 others acquitted of disobedience | Inquirer News
2020 LABOR DAY PROTEST IN ILOILO

Court acquits lawyer, 8 journalists, 33 others of civil disobedience

/ 01:08 AM October 20, 2022

Iloilo map. STORY: Court acquits lawyer, 8 journalists, 33 others of civil disobedience

MANILA, Philippines — An Iloilo court has acquitted a human rights lawyer, eight journalists, and activists of civil disobedience for supposedly defying a person in authority during a Labor Day protest in 2020.

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The 42 individuals — including Angelo Karlo Guillen of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) and eight journalists from Altermedia — were arrested on May 1, 2020, while engaged in a protest action for the death of Bayan Muna Iloilo coordinator Jory Porquia.

They were charged with simple disobedience upon an agent or a person in authority under the Revised Penal Code and violation of executive orders regarding health protocols while the country was under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) due to COVID-19.

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In his decision, Judge Radney Reginaldo Garcia of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities Branch 7 said the prosecution failed to prove the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt.

“The proof against the accused must survive the test of reason. The strongest suspicion must not be permitted to sway judgment… If the prosecution fails to discharge the burden, it is not only the accused’s right to be freed; it is, even more, the Court’s constitutional duty to acquit him. Such is the situation of the accused in the instant case,” the court said.

It explained that, even though the police had presented videos of the arrest, there were no signs that the protesters resisted.

The court said the video showed that while the police were informing the protestors of their arrest and Miranda rights, “many of the accused were already inside their vehicles and that there were only about ten people participating in the rally.”

With regards to Altermedia journalists, the court said there was nothing in the video that showed they were holding placards or participating in the rally.

With regards to the NUPL lawyer, Guillen was only at the scene to assist the protesters. The court noted that he was seen talking to police officers, but nothing in the video showed that he was a participant.

Guillen’s human rights work has been recognized internationally when he received the Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty.

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“Mere presence at the scene of the crime at the time of its commission without proof of cooperation or agreement to cooperate is not enough to constitute one a party to a conspiracy,” the court said.

Citing a Supreme Court decision, the lower court said that, if an accused “resisted” arrest and disobeyed the police, there has to be some force applied. However, there was none based on the video presented by the police.

“The video proves that all accused did not resist, employ force, defy or refuse the arrest effected by the police,” said the court.

The police argued that they were only performing their tasks to arrest those who violated orders regarding health protocols.

The court said the 42 accused could not be convicted of simple disobedience when they were arrested for violating health protocols.

Besides, the court said that, even if all the accused were charged with violating an executive order on health protocols, they still could not be sent to jail because no penalty was indicated in the EO.

“No act can be pronounced criminal unless it is clearly made so by statute prior to its commission,” the court added.

RELATED STORY

NUPL says lawyer included in arrest of Iloilo activists was responding to incident

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TAGS: angelo karlo guillen, civil disobedience case, Jory Porquia, Municipal Trial Court in Cities Branch 7, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, Radney Reginaldo Garcia
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