The Manila cops’ move to confiscate protest materials from a churchgoer was seen as a form of robbery and harassment by a senator and a lawyer.
In a video shared by Akbayan Youth, local cops suddenly grabbed the protest materials from one of their members who was attending the Holy Mass at the Quiapo Church ahead of the fifth State of the Nation Address of President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday.
The posters bore messages calling to junk the controversial Anti-Terrorism Law.
“Hindi ba nila nabasa ang pastoral letter ng CBCP?? Tutol din ang simbahan sa Terror Law!” the group said on Twitter.
Akbayan Youth chair Raymond Naguit also denounced this move as disrespectful to both the churchgoers and the ongoing religious activity.
“Ang sasahol! Sa gitna ng banal na misa eto ang mga uniformed personnel kinukuha ang gamit ng isang kasamahan namin! Bastusan na to!” Naguit said.
The Holy Mass taking place at that time was part of the program of the massive multi-sectorial SONAgKAISA coalition protesting the Duterte administration during SONA day.
No rally was taking place inside Quiapo Church. Church gatherings are also allowed at limited capacity and with social distancing rules in places covered by the general community quarantine.
Moreover, there’s also no law against holding protest placards or materials in any place in the country given the freedom of expression provided by the 1987 Constitution.
Upon learning about the incident, Sen. Risa Hontiveros tweeted that she already had a discussion with the members of the Manila Police District. She also decried the law enforcers’ actions and called it a form of police harassment.
“Kinausap ko ang pulis pagkatapos ng Misa. Walang rally na naganap. Misa lang. Hindi katanggap-tanggap ang karahasan na ito, lalo na sa gitna ng sakramento,” she said.
“Pati ang mga dasal ng mga tao sa loob ng simbahan, papatahimikin?” she added.
Kinausap ko ang pulis pagkatapos ng Misa. Walang rally na naganap. Misa lang. Hindi katanggap-tanggap ang karahasan na ito, lalo na sa gitna ng sakramento.
— risa hontiveros (@risahontiveros) July 27, 2020
‘Cops want to preserve the sanctity of the Mass’
Hontiveros specifically talked to MPD Director Rolando Miranda and explained that the Akbayan Youth member was just attending the Mass before heading out to the movement in Quezon City.
“Umaasa ako na magkaroon ng feedback dahil ‘yung mga kasama na nasa likod ng simbahan ay may baon lang na mga placard. Baka baon lang para hahabol sa UP mamaya at hindi po sila nag-rarally sa loob ng simbahan,” the senator said.
“Na-eskandalo lang ako ng mabalitaan ko pagkatapos ng misa na may ganoong nangyari so umaasa ako kay sir na magkaroon ng feedback and corrective action kasi unnecessary talaga….wala naman ginagawang rally ‘yung mga kasama sa misa,” she added.
Miranda responded that he also attended the Holy Mass and assured the senator that he will investigate the matter.
“I also attended the mass. Andoon ako sa harap na harap… I was just informed by the very good senator na there was this kind of incident so I will look into that kung ano talaga nangyari so that corrective measures or sanctions can be implemented,” he said.
However, Miranda later surmised that his subordinates might only be trying to preserve “the sanctity” of the Holy Mass.
“Siguro nakita ng mga pulis na nandoon rin para ma-preserve natin ‘yung sanctity ng misa,” he said.
The phrases “Ang Sasahol” and “Mga Bastos” immediately trended on local Twitter after the video of the confiscation of posters made rounds on the platform as Filipino online users slammed the actions of police despite being within the premises of a place of worship.
Lawyer Emil Marañon III, meanwhile, noted that the local police’s actions are punishable under acts of robbery specified by the Revised Penal Code.
This is clear case of robbery as defined by Art. 293 of the Revised Penal Code, with an aggravated penalty for having been committed "in a place dedicated to religious worship" and the robbers taking advantage "of [their] public position." pic.twitter.com/IpSyKtDlCH
— EMIL (@13thFool) July 27, 2020
Article 299 of RPC states that:
“Any armed person who shall commit robbery in an inhabited house or public building or edifice devoted to religious worship, shall be punished by reclusion temporal, if the value of the property taken shall exceed 250 pesos.”
Robbery, meanwhile, is defined by Article 293 of RPC, as:
“Any person who, with intent to gain, shall take any personal property belonging to another, by means of violence or intimidation of any person, or using force upon anything shall be guilty of robbery.”