CHR asks police to review cases of Kidapawan protesters
(Philstar.com) - April 6, 2016 - 9:22pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights on Thursday urged the Philippine National Police in Cotabato province to review the cases of 81 people it arrested after a violent dispersal of a farmers' protest in Kidapawan City on April 1, saying pregnant women and the elderly were among those detained.

At a Senate hearing held in Davao City, Human Rights Commissioner Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana confirmed that the commission found that three pregnant women were among those detained. Aside from the pregnant women, "a lot of senior citizens have been picked up," she said.

"I am actually appealing to the PNP to review the cases filed against these people," she said, adding the detainees had been held by the police for a week.

She said that the commission is still conducting its investigation into the dispersal, where at least two farmers died and more than a hundred were injured.

"There are indeed disturbing findings that we are still pursuing," she said, adding the CHR expects to release its report on the incident within two weeks.

Senators also questioned the detention of the protesters, especially of the women and senior citizens, whom police said were caught in the act of assaulting police.

"I find it hard to believe that pregnant women and senior citizens are brave enough to spearhead attacks against the PNP," Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, a candidate for vice president, said.

Cayetano said the police should have released the detainees since they can only be held for 36 hours unless a case has been filed.

The police said, however, that complaints had been filed against the detainees at the city prosecutor's office before the 36 hours had lapsed. Senior Superintendent Rex Dela Rosa, chief of the regional investigation and detective management division, said that the complaints were still at the prosecutor's office.

Cayetano said that the police should have released the protesters after the complaints were filed since the court has yet to issue arrest warrants for them.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, chairman of the Senate justice and human rights committee holding the hearing, said that the delay was depriving the protesters of their rights.

"Direct assault is clearly bailable, but with the PNP delaying it, the detainees are being denied of their right to post bail," he said.

It was later learned that cases had already been filed in court and that the Public Attorney's Office is already working with the farmers.

Lawyer Ephraim Cortez of the National Union of People's Lawyers later said that bail for the farmers has been set at P12,000. Pimentel said the Senate committee will back a motion to lower the bail for the farmers. — Jonathan de Santos

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