‘US Embassy 2’ released for further investigation

Story by G.L.

After being under police custody for almost two days, student activists Gabriel Magtibay and Joanne Pagkaliwangan were released from the Manila Police District (MPD) Headquarters yesterday, April 12, subject to further investigation.

Police officers arrested Magtibay and Pagkaliwangan on Tuesday morning, April 11, at the United States Embassy as they were dispersed from a lightning rally to protest the Balikatan Exercises.

Magtibay is a film student at the UP College of Mass Communication and the current officer-in-charge of political party Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP.

READ: Estudyante ng UP CMC, inaresto matapos ang iglap-protesta sa US Embassy kontra Balikatan

The Manila Office of the City Prosecutor referred all charges against the student activists for “preliminary investigation.” Magtibay and Pagkaliwangan have been accused of vandalism, illegal assembly and resisting arrest.

The inquest resolution said the apprehending officers “failed to provide photos or videos” to prove that Magtibay and Pagkaliwangan, who were seized without a warrant, defaced the US Embassy’s emblem with paint bombs.

Per the rules of court, a warrantless arrest can only be considered lawful when officers witness that the person in question “has committed, is actually committing or is attempting to commit an offense,” or when they have “probable cause to believe that based on personal knowledge of facts or circumstances” the person has committed an unlawful act.

Photos courtesy of Mik Geriane / Kalasag

Discussing the charge of illegal assembly, the prosecutor wrote that Magtibay and Pangkaliwangan were mere participants of the assembly and “should have been peacefully dispersed instead.”

The city prosecutor emphasized that under the Public Assembly Act of 1985, a public assembly without a permit may still be peacefully dispersed and “no person can be punished or held criminally liable for participating in or attending an otherwise peaceful assembly.”

The resolution said officers failed to prove that Magtibay and Pangkaliwangan led and organized the protest action.

On the charge of resisting arrest, the officers insisted in their affidavit that their hands were being “kicked and parried” by the student activists as they were arresting them.

The prosecutor, using a Twitter video of the arrest, said that this did not appear to be the case and maintained that the apprehending officers “did not submit evidence that they sustained injuries” when they arrested Magtibay and Pangkaliwangan.

Before leaving the MPD premises, the student activists shared in an interview that they are “not dispirited” by their arrest.

Wala naman talagang mali doon sa protesta kahapon. Tama lang na ma-release din kami ngayong araw… Naninindigan kami na kailangang maging kritikal ng kabataan sa mga polisiya gaya ng Balikatan,” Magtibay said.

Pagkaliwangan added that aside from protesting against the Balikatan exercises, the youth must “continue to fight” amid other issues felt under the current administration.

Lalo sa panahon ngayon ni Marcos na marami talaga tayong krisis na pinagdadaanan, dapat lang na patuloy na sumulong at lumaban ‘yung maraming kabataan na katulad namin,” Pagkaliwangan said.