PNP: They were caught in flagrante delicto
DAVAO - Farmers, including three pregnant women and several senior citizens, have been detained by police for a week without an arrest warrant for allegedly participating in a protest in Kidapawan City last April 1.
Commissioner Gwendolynn Pimentel-Gana of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) confirmed reports three pregnant women and many senior citizens were among some 79 protesters held by the police for a week now.
"When we talked to them, they have already been held for more than a week—it was a week as of yesterday."
Pimentel-Gana added that senior citizens, both men and women, were picked up "and there are questions if they are the ones involved."
She urged the authorities to review the individual charges if there is enough evidence to have them detained.
At least two people were killed in last week's clashes between police and around 5,000 drought-hit farmers and activists. The protesters were demanding 15,000 sacks of rice from the government.
The Philippines has been gripped by a strong El Niño dry spell since December which has hit food production, particularly in the conflict-wracked south which is home to the country's poorest and where more than half of the population is reliant on agriculture.
Panicked protesters picked their bloodied comrades from the highway and treated their wounds by the roadside as they were sprayed with water from firetrucks.
Atty. Adrian Gan, legal officer of PRO 12, said that 81 cases have been filed against the protesters before the City Prosecutor’s Office on Sunday. A fiscal noted that the cases have already been filed in court.
Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano asked the Philippine National Police (PNP) on the legality of such arrest. He noted as per the law, the protesters may only be detained for a maximum of 36 hours for inquest proceeding.
"There is no point in protecting the PNP kung tayo mismo ang nagva violate ng batas," he said.
"Hindi ba ang procedure, pakawalan sila, and pag issue ng warrant of arrest, saka mo ngayon sila huhulihin saka ide-detain?" Cayetano asked.
Gan, however, said the protesters were arrested 'in flagrante delicto' or in the act of committing the crime.
He also maintained that the waiver of Article 125 was not necessary in this case because the "filing of cases by executing the filing of affidavit complaint by the complainant and there will be witnesses."
Cayetano, however, said the waivers were necessary not in the filing of the cases, but in their detention.
He also asked if the pregnant women also threw rocks at the police. "Yung 81 ba na kinasuhan lahat nambato?" he asked.
Supt. Rex M. Dela Rosa said according to the statements of the arresting officers, all of the detained directly assaulted the police.
For his part, Jerry Alborme, spokesman of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas North Cotabato, claimed that some of those facing charges were actually KMP members who voluntarily left the protest even before the violence started.
He said the farmers were led to believe that they would be going to Kidapawan City Gym. With AFP