(UPDATED) The Manila Office of the City Prosecutors (OCP) ordered the release of 20 protesters arrested during the Manila Pride rally last Friday, June 26, pending further investigation.
The so-called Pride 20 walked out of the Manila Police District Headquarters past 7:30 pm on Tuesday, June 30.
They were detained there for 4 days.
Bahaghari's Rey Valmores-Salinas said they will file countercharges against the Manila police.
"Hindi kami papayag na sa kabila ng pang-aalipusta, sa kabila ng iligal na aresto, iligal na pagkakakulong sa amin ay papayagan lang namin na dumaan lang 'yun na walang nangyari. Expect that we will file counter charges against the Manila police," said Salinas after walking free.
(We will not just allow them to get away with harrassing us, illegally arresting us, and illegally detaining us.)
Their lawyer Minnie Lopez from the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL) said the Manila OCP approved the recommendation to release the protesters pending further investigation.
This does not clear the protesters yet. The decision to release pending further investigation is among the possible results of inquest. This just means the prosecutor still has to decide whether to clear them or charge them.
Police have filed complaints of violations of the Public Assembly Law (BP 880), Article 151 of the Revised Penal Code on “Resistance and Disobedience to a Person in Authority or the Agents of such Person” in relation to RA 11332 (Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases Law).
In a statement, the NUPL said the complaints are baseless because the protesters were wearing masks and practicing physical distancing, and could be seen in footage as "negotiating peacefully" with the police when they were apprehended.
Police said the protesters held a rally without a permit, but NUPL said the police still doesn't have legal basis to "violently disperse the rally and forcefully arrest" protesters.
Section 12 of Batas Pambansa 880 says that if the assembly is held without permit, "the said public assembly may be peacefully dispersed."
"How can one resist or seriously disobey an order of a police officer when he is already physically restrained by a group of policemen armed with truncheons and battle gear?" said the NUPL.
Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code states that all persons arrested without warrant shall be brought to court within 36, 18 or 12 hours depending on the offense. Because the protesters have been detained since Friday, their detention has lapsed the prescribed periods.
Lopez said it was because the Manila OCP was on lockdown and only open on Tuesdays and Fridays, adding that there were many people waiting for resolutions from Manila prosecutors on Tuesday.