Whatever happened to: Grab driver arrested by cop blocking mall driveway
CCTV footage from the establishment across the street shows the car of Police Capt. Ronald Saquilayan blocking the driveway at a Starbucks Coffee branch in Taguig on the night of October 6, 2020. Grab driver Florence Norial is seen arguing with the officer.
Philstar.com Screengrab/Spd Pio on Facebook
Whatever happened to: Grab driver arrested by cop blocking mall driveway
Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - October 28, 2020 - 7:28am

MANILA, Philippines (First published October 28) — Florence Norial, the Grab driver who was arrested in early October, is set to file a case against Police Capt. Ronald Saquilayan, the cop who she says assaulted and later arrested her without warrant and without reading her rights. 

This was confirmed to Philstar.com in an online exchange with Mirza Miguel Shahzad, Norial's boyfriend, who was with her throughout her arrest. 

Norial and Shahzad in separate accounts on social media wrote that Saquilayan, who was in plainclothes at the time, hit the former with a car door in front of a cafe in Taguig and later arrested her after she retaliated. 

Reports of the incident went viral, with social media users saying this is a potential case of abuse of power on the part of the police. 

'We want justice'

Norial and her partner insist that Saquilayan was the first to strike Norial, and that she only acted in self-defense.

At the police station, Saquilayan continued to insist that he had been hurt in the scuffle. Cops reportedly threatened to arrest Shahzad and Norial's sister, Aubrey. The camp also claimed that they were later not allowed an attorney, nor were they given the chance to file their own complaint against Saquilayan or even air their side of the story. 

Norial was released almost a week later on October 13 after posting a bail of P3,000.

The Commission on Human Rights in a statement then said: "We remind law enforcement agents to uphold their own standard protocols in conducting arrest and to be mindful of the legally allowable force to control someone who physically assaults an officer."

"If there is proven abuse of authority, appropriate complaints will be filed before the PNP-Internal Affairs Service and the Office of the Ombudsman to hold the erring official accountable."

READ: CHR to look into alleged warrantless arrest, maltreatment of Grab driver in Taguig

"We want justice, that's really it. Justice for what happened," Shahzad said in Filipino. 

"We're going to file. The IAS is looking for additional evidence and statements...we're waiting for advice from our attorneys," he also said. 

According to Shahzad, the couple was told that the national police's Internal Affairs Service will be filing the case after conducting its preliminary investigation. 

Grab Philippines has declined to comment on their driver's situation.

The CHR and PNP-IAS have yet to respond to requests for comment. 

What happened? 

Norial's posts narrate that the cop's van was parked in a driveway in front of her after she had picked up a passenger.

Despite her attempts at getting his attention, she said, he ignored her. "He pushed me back with his car door and I fell into the bushes. After I slapped him out of self-defense, he turned things around and said I hurt him first," her post reads in Filipino.

But Saquilayan, in his sworn statement, alleged that Norial "suddenly loudly knocked on the window" of his car door that night, prompting him to demand the Starbucks personnel to "implement their policy."

"Thus, she followed him and shouted at him and the guard. He just did not mind her and went back to his vehicle where he introduced himself to her as a police officer. However, she did not listen to him and pushed the door of his car so that he cannot board it," the inquest case referred by the Taguig City Police Station read. 

"When he pulled the door to open it, she fell on her behind. When he tried to help her, she hit him on his head. Thus, he arrested her and informed her of her rights, but she was resisting," it added. 

READ: Grab driver released a week after altercation

According to court documents from Taguig Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 115 acquired by Philstar.com, Saquilayan's claims of resistance and disobedience to a person in authority, alarm and scandal, and direct assault were dismissed after evaluation of the evidence provided yielded no probable cause for these. 

Norial was eventually indicted for unjust vexation, which the court said was "broad enough to include any human conduct which, although not productive of some physical or material harm, could unjustifiably annoy or vex an innocent person." 

"While respondent later learned that complainant is a police officer, an agent of a person in authority, as aforesaid, complainant was not in the exercise of his duties at that time," the recommendation penned by Senior Assistant City Prosecutor Grace Tang-Togado read.

Driver 'maligned' police

Police Brig. Gen. Emmanuel Peralta, director of the Southern Police District, slammed Norial in a press statement on the incident, claiming she maligned the police on social media and insisted that she was at fault. 

According to the general, Norial "rudely showed her undisciplined personality, disobedience to policy of 1st come 1st serve of the commercial establishment."

Peralta also made public CCTV footage from the establishment across the street from where the incident took place, though the video footage clearly shows that Saquilayan struck Norial first. 

According to Norial and Shahzan, it was also only then that Saquilayan disclosed that he was a police officer. He then arrested the Grab driver without reading her rights nor presenting a warrant. 

Warrantless arrests are allowed in certain cases but an arresting officer is required to read a person being arrested their rights.

"If it can happen to us, it can happen to anyone," Shahzad also wrote in his post in Filipino. 

"In case we can win the cases against them, if something bad happens to us...you already know who is behind it. Let's be realistic, [they can get back at us any time] they want even now or after settling this event. We can only pray for our safety right now."

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