Former Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao and six members of his group are not completely absolved from criminal liabilities following the dismissal of one of the charges against them by the Norzagaray Municipal Trial Court, according to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
DILG Undersecretary and Spokesperson Jonathan E. Malaya says that despite the dismissal of the charge for violation of Section 9 (d) of Republic Act No. 11332, also known as the law on the mandatory reporting of notifiable diseases, Casilao and his companions will still be facing other criminal charges from the Department of Justice (DOJ), “therefore they are still not off the hook.”
“It was clear that Casilao and his group committed criminal offenses when they conducted an unauthorized travel outside of Metro Manila and conducted a mass gathering during ECQ. One case against them may have been dismissed but it is certain that they have not been absolved from other criminal liabilities. Magpapatuloy po ang pagdinig sa iba pa nilang mga kaso,” Malaya says.
“We respect the decision of the court, which clearly shows the independence of the judiciary, but they will still face the other charges filed by the DOJ,” he adds.
Judge Julie Rita Suarez-Badillo of the Norzagaray Municipal Trial Court dismissed only the charge arising from RA 11332 of the ‘Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act saying the alleged facts do not constitute an offense. “In dismissing the charge against the former Anakpawis Representative and his group, the judge stated that RA 11332 may not be the law violated at this point,” Malaya says.
Suarez-Badilla expressed through an order dated May 13 that "While such act [travelling outside the residence without the travel permit or quarantine pass] illustrates defiance for the open directive to observe the ECQ, such infraction does not fall under the prohibited acts of RA 11332."
Malaya explains that the dismissal is without prejudice to the prosecutor’s filing of another information in relation to non-cooperation.
He says that the accused are still facing prosecution for the other charges on Resistance and Disobedience to a Person in Authority or the Agents; attempted inciting of sedition; and in the case of Casilao, usurpation of authority filed by the DOJ. “They are not completely off the hook sapagkat may iba pa silang mga kasong dapat lusutan kaya it is absurd for them to claim exoneration.”
It can be recalled, says Malaya, that Casilao and his group’s purpose for the unauthorized travel outside of NCR was to conduct a mass gathering in the form of a teach-in or propaganda work against the government. Numerous tarpaulins, pamphlets, and propaganda materials were found inside their jeepney.
“Clearly, there was an ulterior motive in their clandestine operation last April as they have guised their propaganda work as a relief operation at mayroon silang nalabag na batas. Fortunately, pieces of evidence were confiscated and gathered, which will be presented by the DOJ to the court,” the DILG Spox points out.
Meanwhile, DOJ Secretary Menandro Guevarra said in an interview that the prosecutors of the case against Casilao and his group can still appeal the court dismissal of the non-cooperation case versus the accused saying that the prosecutors can file a motion for partial reconsideration.
The accused will be arraigned on June 24, 2020, said Guevarra.
The former Anakpawis representative and six other members were caught for violating the ECQ in Luzon last April when they broke the ‘stay at home policy,’ conducted an unauthorized travel outside of Metro Manila, and attempted to organize a mass gathering in Norzagaray, Bulacan in the guise of distributing relief goods.