Case vs 113 arrested in Makati resto-bar raid dismissed

Anjo Bagaoisan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 29 2020 09:58 AM | Updated as of Oct 29 2020 01:28 PM

MANILA (UPDATE) - The Makati City Prosecutor's Office has dismissed the case police filed against 113 people, including locals and foreigners, who were arrested in a resto-bar raid for alleged quarantine violations in late June.

In a resolution dated October 13, Senior Assistant City Prosecutor Joel Vedan said police were not able to provide enough evidence for the respondents to be charged with violating Republic Act No. 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Concern Act.

The law has previously been used by police as a basis for charges filed against curfew violators and others arrested during stricter lockdown periods.

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The fiscal sided with the resto-bar operator Felix Maramba and the customers who claimed they did not violate quarantine protocols.

He wrote that none of them were proven to be infected with a notifiable disease like COVID-19 that would be a violation of the law.

Makati police conducted the operation at the bar on the afternoon of June 28, tagging it for illegally serving alcohol and hosting a party event, with its customers not physical distancing.

The respondents, among them host KC Montero and his wife, were booked at the police station and detained for nearly 2 nights at a local covered court.

The resto-bar was subsequently closed down by the city business permits and licensing office.

In their statements, the customers said the pictures police presented of them not physically distancing were shot when they were made to fall in line after the raid.

They also alleged police did not inform them they were being arrested then.

The prosecutor added the customers were cooperative during the entire process.

The prosecutor sided Skye Bar operator Felix Maramba and the customers who claimed they did not violate quarantine protocols.

He wrote that none of them were proven to be infected with a notifiable disease like COVID-19 that would be a violation of the law.

Makati police conducted the operation at the bar on the afternoon of June 28, tagging it for illegally serving alcohol and hosting a party event, with its customers failing to observe physical distancing.

The respondents, among them host KC Montero and his wife, were booked at the police station and detained for nearly 2 nights at a local covered court.

The resto-bar was subsequently closed down by the city business permits and licensing office.

In their statements, the customers said the pictures police presented of them not physically distancing were shot when they were made to fall in line after the raid.

They also alleged police did not inform them they were being arrested then.

The prosecutor added the customers were cooperative during the entire process.

Speaking to ABS-CBN News, Police Maj. Gideon Ines, who led the raid, said Thursday their team presented a strong case.

"Kita niyo naman sa mga videos ng sa mga media, malakas naman ang ebidensya na talagang nag-violate sila doon sa ikinaso ng mga pulis dito sa violation ng guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 virus," he said.

(You saw in the videos presented to media, we had strong evidence that they really violated guidelines to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.)

During inquest proceedings, the prosecutor had junked other complaints police filed in line with violating city quarantine guidelines and disobedience to authority.

Maramba's counter-affidavit added the resto-bar had been allowed to offer dine-in services and served alcoholic drinks with their food.

The fiscal agreed the establishment had complied with the then 30% capacity rule for restaurants, citing photos provided by some respondents showing physical distancing in the seating arrangement.

POSSIBLE ADMINISTRATIVE CASES

Fudge Tajar, lawyer for 13 of the respondents, said her clients are discussing whether to pursue administrative cases against the police officers behind the raid and the complaints filed against them.

"Ayaw namin siyang maulit at gusto namin siya maging leksyon doon sa mga taong gumawa nito," she said.

(We don't want it to happen again and we want it to be a lesson to those who did this.)

"Kung kaya nilang gawin ito sa mga somehow may kaya sa buhay, what more 'yong mga hindi na makapaghanapbuhay ngayon o hirap maghanapbuhay na kinulong, sinaktan or na-torture dahil lumabas sila ng kanilang bahay?"

(If they can do this to those who have a means in life, what more to those who have no work or who are having a hard time to work and are jailed, assaulted or tortured because they left their homes?)

"Paano na lang 'yong mga hindi aware sa kanilang mga karapatan, na hindi nila alam nilabag na pala ang karapatan nila kahit wala silang nilalabag na batas?"

(How about those who are not aware of their rights and do not know that their rights have been violated while they have not violated the law?)

Tajar's clients, nevertheless, welcomed the decision, she said.

"Relieved lang sila na hindi na ito tumuloy sa korte, pero andoon pa rin 'yong trauma at saka 'yong unnecessary expenses nila, financially, emotionally, psychologically na effect sa kanila ng pagkakahuli kahit wala naman silang ginawang kasalanan," she said.

(They are just relieved that the case did not reach court, but there's still the trauma, unnecessary expenses, financial, emotional, psychological effect because of their arrest when they did nothing wrong.)

This personal toll, she said, included online bashing after news of the arrests came out.

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Seven policemen are cited as complainants in the case, including Ines, who was then Makati City deputy police chief.

Ines is currently the deputy chief of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Regional Learning and Doctrine Development Division. He was transferred there in July, days after the raid.

He said their team stands by the case they filed.

"Dapat ang ginawa ng piskal diyan is binusisi niyang mabuti ang ebidensya na prinesenta ng mga pulis. Sa part ko being isang experienced investigator, may probable cause iyan para isampa sa court," Ines said via phone.

(The fiscal should have examined closely the evidence police presented. On my part as an experienced investigator, there is probable cause to file that in court.)

He said police would not just file a case that is lacking evidence, as that would just waste their efforts.

ABS-CBN News also asked Makati Police chief Col. Oscar Jacildo for his reaction to the decision but he has yet to reply to our calls or messages.

In September, Makati police raided another bar for operating after curfew, nabbing 34 customers and staff, among them 9 foreigners.

Unlike the June operation on the Skye bar, the alleged violators were issued ordinance violation receipts and let go after 3 hours.

BAR TO REOPEN

In a statement sent to ABS-CBN News, Skye Bar's lawyer Julio Bucoy said their camp was "pleased" with the junking of the case and the resolution that no violation was committed.

"At the end of the day, we believe the whole incident was a result of confusion on the rules and guidelines. Even if we wished that it didn’t happen, we recognize the initiative and the urgency of the Makati Police," Bucoy said.

He added the establishment hopes to work with authorities in the future to "find the delicate balance between preventing the spread of the virus and providing livelihood to our people."

"We also look forward to reopening and providing our customers with a safe and enjoyable open-air respite from the pandemic," he said.