Pride 20 activists cleared for holding rally

Marc Jayson Cayabyab (The Philippine Star) - December 30, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Manila city prosecutor’s office has cleared the 17 LGBTQ+ activists for holding a Pride March amid the general community quarantine last June 26.

In a resolution dated Dec. 2 and released to the media yesterday, Assistant City Prosecutor Kristine Ria Cirilo said the activists could not be held liable for violating Batas Pambansa 880 or the Public Assembly Act when they protested without a permit to hold a rally.

The law states that participants of a peaceful assembly could not be held criminally liable, the prosecutor said.

The Manila prosecutor said under the law, a rally held without a permit must be dispersed peacefully by police.

“This alarming and remorseful practice of law enforcements of filing baseless charges to curtail basic and fundamental freedoms – such as the constitutional right to peaceably assemble – should and must stop,” the activists’ lawyer Minnie Lopez said yesterday.

Lopez said they will submit the resolution before the Office of the Ombudsman, where the activists filed counter-charges against the Manila police.

The arrested activists were collectively called “Pride 20,” but only 17 of them were charged by the police. Three others were not charged for being minors.

Cleared of the charges are Rey Salinas, Andrew Zarate, Andy Lamac-lamac, Nicky Lamac-lamac, Kim Samiana, Nehemiah Hidos, Joan Salvador, Marya Estavillo, Rogelio Feguro Jr., Ronel Artisuela, Joan Paz-Bonganay, Ma. Chriztina Madlangbayan, John Marc Santos, Aljohn Estrella, Gwyneth Pacyaya, Carla Nicoyco and Mark Daniel Bolima.

Cirilo found the protest peaceful and compliant with social distancing protocols, based on video footage.

The police should have exercised maximum tolerance in dispersing the crowd instead of arresting the activists, the fiscal said.

Cirilo also dismissed the resistance to authority charge because the crowd dispersed after the program. It is the police who prevented the protesters from leaving, she said, describing the act as “ironic.”

The prosecutor also dismissed the complaint against the activists for holding the rally amid a pandemic despite possible sanctions under Republic Act 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act.

While the law prohibits non-cooperation of persons with a notifiable disease, the Manila police failed to prove that the protesters were afflicted with COVID-19 during the rally, the prosecutor said.

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