Seares: Accidental protester in UP Cebu arrests is an unwilling activist

Pachico A. Seares

ONE of eight persons arrested during the June 5 protest in front of the University of the Philippines-Cebu grounds in Lahug, Cebu City was Clement Corominas, 19, reportedly the son of a meat seller and a school dropout.

He was not among the 30 protesters who gathered that Friday morning to express opposition to the Anti-Terrorism Bill of 2020, which the House approved two days earlier.

He was not carrying a placard. He was not shouting slogans at the police, flashing the "Laban" or fight sign, or otherwise do anything a protester would do. He was standing at a safe, multiple-feet distance.

He had no beef against the Anti-Terrorism Law or against the government -- well, maybe just against snail-pace internet service.

An 'usisero'

He was drawn by curiosity over a social media post the night before inviting people to the protest. Utterly naive, he moved towards the police as they were dragging and cuffing people and asked what was happening.

If police was not sure at the time of arrest if Colmenares was an actual participant, subsequent investigation must have ascertained that he was merely a bystander, a interested watcher, an "usisero."

Why he's included

Prosecutors could have found that out too as news media reporters in the same news cycle corrected the number and identity of those arrested: three students, four activists, and one bystander. "Cebu 8" in the TV and cable news crawler was actually "Cebu 7 Plus 1."

Corominas was an accidental No. 8 in Cebu 8.

Why he was included may be explained by the tendency, or propensity, of "fiscals" to sue as many people as possible and leave it to the trial judge to decide who are "really" guilty out of the several "probably" guilty.

Which will stick?

Rallying without a permit? He was not part of the group of protesters, the alleged illegal assembly. Simple disobedience? He didn't disobey police order and didn't resist arrest and detention. Didn't break the police line; there was no police line. Didn't stop or interfere with the police in their work. Failure to cooperate with authorities about an infectious disease? He was not infected and it was not a case of failure to notify or submit to health authorities.

Corominas is facing the same charges filed against the principal seven.

At most though, he violated the rule not to go out of the house except for work or essential errand. He admitted he was there just to watch. But police and prosecutors recognized that on that day, the Bayanihan to Heal as One Law had already expired and the city ordinance punishing CQ violations in Cebu City was still pending in the City Council. He should have been just made to dance a few steps of the Sinulog and sent home.

Not the purpose

The purported purpose of the police action -- to enforce the quarantine rule and protect public health and safety -- collapsed. They had to rely on other laws, which might not also stand in court, to justify the arrest and detention.

Corominas, the "Plus One" and the No. 8, was in the wrong place. And with the group he has been thrown into, he must wait for the slow wheel of justice to move, hobbled at it already is by the epidemic that refuses to leave.