Cops keeping watch on activists held in check | Inquirer News

Cops keeping watch on activists held in check

A man who later turned out to be a police “patrolman” is escorted out of the Baguio City Hall of Justice on Thursday morning after being caught secretly taking videos and photos of activists who were in the building for a hearing.

COURTHOUSE ‘SPY’ A man who later turned out to be a police “patrolman” is escorted out of the Baguio City Hall of Justice on Thursday morning after being caught secretly taking videos and photos of activists who were in the building for a hearing. —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

It was turning into a week of setbacks for police actions directed at activists.

Other officers accosted a plainclothesman after he was found secretly taking videos and photographs of activists inside the courthouse in Baguio City on Thursday morning.

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In Quezon City, the local prosecutor’s office threw out for lack of evidence a police complaint accusing an artist of violating environmental laws—for supposedly polluting the air—when he set the effigy of President Marcos on fire as part of a protest rally during his second State of the Nation Address (Sona) in July.

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At the Baguio City Hall of Justice, a man in a hoodie, baseball cap, and face mask was caught spying on four activists who had sued the government for designating them as terrorists without due process.

When taken to the Baguio City Police Office (BCPO) to have his identity verified, he was also found carrying a handgun, according to Councilor Jose Molintas, who also serves as the lead counsel for the four activists who sued the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC).

Molintas said the man, who was later confirmed to be a police “patrolman,” was detained based on the complaint filed by the supporters and other lawyers of Windel Bolinget, Jennifer Awingan-Taggaoa, Sarah Abellon-Alikes and Stephen Tauli. Stephen is the brother of former United Nations Special Rapporteur Vicky Tauli Corpuz.

Released

The four activists were at the Hall of Justice that day to appear before Judge Cecilia Corazon Dulay Archog of Baguio Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 7 for the first hearing of their petition challenging the legality of their designation as terrorists. The respondents in the case were Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin as the ATC chair and Bangko Sentral Governor Eli Remolona Jr., who was included as head of the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

According to Molintas, the BCPO initially said it had no knowledge that the arrested man was a police officer. Later, the Baguio City police confirmed he was one of their warrant officers and that he was at the courthouse that morning on assignment to get documents from another RTC branch.

The patrolman—who asked not to be named in this report—was later released and allowed to rejoin his unit, but he will be undergoing an administrative inquiry for bringing a gun inside the Hall of Justice, said Capt. Agnes Dongpaen, the BCPO public information officer.

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Quoting the patrolman’s statement, Dongpaen said he was accosted after he “had just retrieved his weapon from the (building) security as he was about to exit.”

Dongpaen said the patrolman would still have to explain why he still stayed at the building up to the point when the activists and their lawyers became suspicious. She maintained, however, that “no harassment took place” and that the patrolman was performing “legitimate duties” at the courthouse.

Case of ‘Doble Cara’

Meanwhile, the Quezon City prosecutor’s office dismissed the complaint filed by two police officers against Max Santiago, the resident artist of the militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), for alleged violation of the Clean Air Act and Ecological Waste Management Act.

The resolution, dated Nov. 10 but released only on Wednesday, junked the legal action initiated by Staff Sgt. Mario Sembrano and Cpl. Paolo Navarro of the Quezon City Police District’s (QCPD) Anonas station.

Sembrano and Navarro alleged that Santiago “greatly contributed to air pollution” and acted against the government mandate to “protect public health’’ when he and other Bayan members burned “Doble Cara,” the title of the paper mache artwork caricaturing President Marcos as part of the anti-Sona demonstrations in Quezon City on July 24.

The two officers also called the effigy burning a “deliberate disrespect to the President and to the country.”

Signed by Assistant City Prosecutor Kathleen Aseron-Casimiro, the resolution cited the absence of any certification qualifying the artwork as a piece of “solid waste.” It also noted the police provided no supporting document showing the act of burning it may be considered tantamount to “incineration” that is prohibited by law.

Bayan had earlier denounced the QCPD complaint as mere harassment and a “clear case of repression hiding behind feigned concern for the environment.”

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READ: Complaint vs Bayan artist for burning effigy at Sona protest dismissed

TAGS: Activists, Police

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