A complaint for simple robbery and robbery by execution of deeds has been filed against several members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) from Pandi, Bulacan before the Office of the Ombudsman on Friday morning by the group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay).
PNP Regional Office 3 Director Brig. Gen. Rhodel Sermonia, Director of Bulacan Provincial Police Office PCol. Lawrence Bonifacio Cajipe, Acting Chief of Police of Pandi Police Station PCpt. Jun Javier Alejandrino, PLt. Gerardo Espiritu and eight other John and Jane Does are facing a complaint in violation of Article 294(5) and Article 298 of the Revised Penal Code.
They have also been accused of the administrative offenses of gross misconduct, conduct unbecoming of a public official, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
The complaint arose from an alleged illegal search and seizure of the Pinoy Weekly magazines conducted by the respondents at Villa Lois, Brgy. Siling Bata, Pandi, Bulacan on July 26.
Complainants Marilou Iligan, President of the Villa Lois Chapter of Kadamay; Lea Maralit, President of the Kadamay Pandi Municipal Chapter; Elizabeth Guerrero, Auditor of the Kadamay Pandi Municipal Chapter; and Eufemia “Ka Mimi” Doringo, National Spokesperson of Kadamay, said that the magazines are legal, while the old copies were being used for their livelihood projects such as paper-making vases, paper bags, paper mats, and other handicrafts.
But despite their arguments, the police allegedly proceeded with the seizure of magazines.
“Respondents then illegally seized Pinoy Weekly magazines inside the Kadamay office,” the complaint narrated. “Throughout the whole ordeal, complainants and other Kadamay members repeatedly registered their protest against the unlawful seizure of the publications.”
All in all, the Kadamay members said police seized no less than nine bundles of magazines, each with 500 copies.
When complainant Maralit requested the police issue a “spot report,” she was forced to sign a piece of yellow paper with the words, “Received by Lea Maralit.” She refused to sign.
Respondent Alejandrino then wrote that Kadamay leaders voluntarily surrendered “large volumes of subversive documents” on the paper and threatened them to sign. “Because complainant Maralit still felt threatened, she signed under duress. Complainants Iligan and Guerrero were also forced to sign as witnesses,” the complaint said.
The police said that the magazines are illegal and subversive, especially at a time when the Anti-Terrorism Act is in place. By having the magazines in their possession, the police said that Kadamay members could be held criminally liable.
The police likewise told them “may mangyayari (something will happen)” if they refused to “surrender” the magazines.
The complainants admitted that the magazines presented views critical of the government. However, they denied that these incited a serious and imminent threat to national security or public order that the government has the right to prevent.
“Freedom to write for the press, which includes the right to impart information of ideas, applies to ideas of all kinds, even those that may be deeply offensive,” the Kadamay members said. “Needless to state, this unlawful taking constitutes a deprivation of the constitutional right to property without due process of law.”
The members of Kadamay were assisted by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) when they filed the complaint. “This vicious system must be stopped, and the abusers should be punished to prevent even further rampant violations of human rights,” the NUPL said in a statement.