[Urgent Alert] Updates: A Lawyer and Human Rights Defender was Arrested During Forced Eviction of Residents in Madaue City, Cebu Province

Updates Regarding Our Recent Urgent Alert: A Lawyer and Human Rights Defender was Arrested During Forced Eviction of Residents in Madaue City, Cebu Province

Jose Aaron Pedrosa, Jr. and Jessica A. Zuniga were released from detention at past 4:00pm on November 26, 2014 (the day after they were arrested). Here is the statement of Mr. Pedrosa posted on his Facebook account: .

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Comrades, colleagues and friends, greetings from rainy Cebu!

At past 4pm yesterday (November 26), Jessica and I posted bail amounting to P15,0000 – P12,000 for the case against me: Obstruction of Justice; P 2,000 for the case against Jessica: Resisting Arrest and Disobedience of Agents of Persons in Authority; and P1,000 for legal fees. What should have been a reduced bail of P8,000 shot up to P15,000 due to the delay of the police in delivering us to the court. When we arrived at the Hall of Justice, the Executive Judge (EJ) already left. Only the EJ can grant motions for reduction of bail.

Our decision to post bail was a consequence of our decision to pursue immediate administrative and legal actions against concerned government officials over the illegal demolition and of late, our illegal warrantless arrest, among others.

My illegal arrest and detention as well as Jessica’s are not the main issue here. It is the continuing illegal clearing and demolition operation that is happening in Sitios Mahayag and Mahusay in Mandaue City, Cebu. It is true for all the forcible demolition and eviction happening else where across the country where the officialdom deprive informal settlers of their homes in violation of our constitutional rights, the Urban Development and Housing Act and other protocols. It does so with impunity.

What is disconcerting are the inaccuracies and skewed facts reported in the media portraying the police and the local governments as the victims in this case. That I goaded the people into putting up resistance against the demolition team and the police.
This is sheer nonsense. It depicts the affected community as an unthinking and non-discerning horde. Any person whose only home is being taken away from him or her would put up a resistance as an instinctive response. No counsel can lawyer that kind of resistance.
The resistance in this case is inspired by a demolition order dated June 24, 2014 – one that has been enforced that day, enforced again on October 7 and for the last two weeks, was enforced again day in and day out. A demolition order which was intended to clear the informal settlement along the three (3) meter easement. The same order was used to justify the clearing of all the homes even beyond the 3-meter easement. I do not know of demolition orders of perpetual nature. But Mandaue City is leading the way on this regard.

I was precisely where I was because the police started to indiscriminately arrest
Mahayag residents whom they suspected to have thrown foul objects and substances at the them and the demolition team. I will not deny having seen this but just like any bystander, it was difficult to pinpoint with certainty who threw what. Before us was a sea of angry residents who wanted to drive away the demolition team.

To avoid any unnecessary injuries, I appeared at the sitio entrance by the fence waving both arms up in the air to appeal to the police, who rushed into the scene, and the residents to desist from using force. The scene before me was police officers pulling women residents, dragging them and in the process tearing their upper garments.

This was no longer a justified warrantless arrest. It was pure harassment. This was when I introduced myself to the police as the counsel of the Mahayag residents and pleaded for the police to stop ill-treating the women. One police officer Galo responded, “Way abogado abogado diri”. This troubled me all the more.

The police simply did not budge. It was at this point, out of frustration, that I challenged the police to arrest me instead just to stop harassing the people. The statement was meant to let the police pause and consider their actions. The excessive force they were using. The indecency of women being forcibly taken, there shirts torn, their breasts exposed. Clearly, this was no valid warrantless arrest. Instead. I was immediately, escorted by a few police officers into the BJMP mobile. I asked why I was being arrested. They reasoned: voluntary surrender. I asked again as to what crime I was voluntarily surrendering to. No reply.

Jessica was also arrested and brought to the mobile minutes later. I was arrested at 1:45 PM. We were then sent to Police Station 2 in Subangdako, Mandaue. I asked when the inquest proceedings will be held. The officer at the desk said after 12 hours.
We were next taken to the Mandaue Community/District Hospital for our medico-legal check up.

At past 4 pm, we were taken back to Station 2 where the local media were waiting for statements. We held a short press conference condemning the illegal arrests and demolition. After this, we were placed inside the detention center.

Despite all this, the people were not deterred.

Mahayag and Mahusay residents as well as Sanlakas members staged an overnight vigil outside of the Police Station. The next day an indignation march of about 200 individuals was staged at the police station all the way to the Mandaue City Hall.

We will not be deterred. It is back to barracks for me and our colleagues here. On top of the Mahayag demolition, we are now gearing up for our protest actions tomorrow here in Cebu against the grant of emergency powers to the president to “solve the power crisis” in Luzon by first quarter of 2015.

I wish to extend my sincerest gratitude to the outpouring of solidarity and support all of you have shown and extended following my illegal warrantless detention. Your calls, texts and facebook posts (which I am now reading) strengthen my resolve to persevere in this oft-criticized and maligned cause – the cause of advancing and defending the fundamental rights of the people.

Today is another day.

Padayon!

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