A Quezon City court has convicted 38 members of urban poor group Kadamay of trespassing on a property in Barangay Tandang Sora in 2017.
Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 43 Judge Don Ace Mariano Alagar found them “guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Other Forms of Trespass” and issued them a penalty of P200 fine each.
Meanwhile, the charges against their three other co-accused were already dismissed in January 2021 following their death.
In his decision, Alagar said, the defense of the accused to commit trespassing by entering a fenced property on Apollo St. “because of an impending street operation that would force them out of the street” could not be justified.
Nevertheless, the judge added that “the court understands that accused were driven by self-preservation under the circumstances,” so a “penalty of fine” will only be imposed “instead of imprisonment.”
“The system of criminal law followed in the Philippines, true to the ways of constitutionalism, has always leaned toward the milder form of responsibility, whether as to the nature of the offense or the penalty to be incurred by the wrongdoer,” the decision read.
The charges against the 38 Kadamay members came after they forcibly entered the private lot in the morning of April 2, 2017, the court document read, citing testimony from one of the private complainants.
“They [the private complainants] also learned that the informal settlers destroyed the galvanized iron fence of the said property amounting to more or less P10,000,” it added.
At the time of the incident, the accused had been living on the streets after their houses in the same area were demolished nine months ago, the court noted.
In their defense, the accused argued that “they were forced to enter the subject property to enforce their rights” and “after they were given order” by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) regarding its scheduled clearing operation. This led to their arrest a day after.
The judge said that “by admitting to have entered the property of private complainants, the accused in effect validated the evidence of the prosecution” in its trespassing charges.
Even though the individuals said that they did it due to “state of necessity,” the judge ruled it out as he said that it “does not even satisfy the first element that there is an evil sought to be avoided.”
“The alleged clearing operation of the MMDA enjoys the presumption of regularity and therefore lawful and legal,” the decision read, “It is not an evil that must be avoided.”
“Also, the evil sought to be avoided—the alleged clearing operations of the MMDA—is merely expected or anticipated. If the evil sought to be avoided is merely expected or anticipated or may happen in the future, this defense is not applicable,” it added.