San Roque residents ‘acting within their rights’, Philippine court rules

·Contributor
·2 min read
Some of the acquitted 21 residents of Sitio San Roque, Quezon City, known as the San Roque 21, who were previously arrested for demanding food aid in a protest rally in April 2020 during the strictest lockdown in the Philippines. (Source: Save San Roque/Facebook)
Some of the acquitted 21 residents of Sitio San Roque, Quezon City, known as the San Roque 21, who were previously arrested for demanding food aid in a protest rally in April 2020 during the strictest lockdown in the Philippines. (Source: Save San Roque/Facebook)

After being violently dispersed and arrested due to supposed violations of quarantine protocols during the height of the pandemic in April 2020, the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 38 dismissed the cases against the 21 Sitio San Roque residents.

“The decision of the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 38 gives us faith in the courts to correct grave inequities,” the residents’ legal counsels said in a statement.

In the decision dated June 6, the court ruled that the residents “were acting within their rights when they went outside of their respective residences to plead for food,” and granted their Demurrer to Evidence, which challenges the sufficiency of the evidence of the prosecution, and acquitted them.

In one of the major charges against them, the “non-cooperation” under the Republic Act 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases, the court said that although there were restrictions on mobility within the capital, any movement which seeks to access basic necessities was not prohibited.

“While others simply lined up in groceries and supermarkets to get food during the ECQ, the accused in these consolidated cases, unfortunately, were constrained to publicly plead and beg for food,” the decision read, penned by the court’s presiding judge, John Boomsri Sy Rodolfo.

With regards to the violation of BP 880, a Marcos Sr. martial law-era law that regulates mass gathering and mobilizations, the court argued that this case only applies to demonstrations without a permit. Meanwhile, in the disobedience charge, the court said that there’s nothing unlawful about pleading for food.

“Let this case not be remembered for the inhumanity of the Duterte administration’s grossly disproportionate and incongruent response to a public health problem; let it stand testament to the enduring spirit of bayanihan in each one of us,” the joint statement added.

The decision likewise ordered the return of the P15,000 bail for each of the accused.

Marvin Joseph Ang is a news and creative writer who follows developments in politics, democracy, and popular culture. He advocates for a free press and national democracy. The views expressed are his own.

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