• Hotel siege: SC junks journalists’ class suit

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    THE Supreme Court (SC) has thrown out a class suit filed by media practitioners against police officers who arrested them during a siege of the Manila Peninsula hotel in 2007.

    In its ruling, the SC en banc dismissed a petition for being moot and academic since no other arrests were made nor charges were filed against any of the petitioners in the writ of amparo and prohibition.

    The petition was filed by Cecilia Orena-Drilon of ABS-CBN and other media practitioners, along with Raoul Esperas of dwIZ radio.

    “The court dismissed for being moot and academic the consolidated petition for amparo and prohibition challenging their arrests after the so-called Manila Peninsula incident on November 29, 2007 and directed against the advisory issued by the then-DOJ Secretary Raul Gonzalez,” the ruling said, referring to the Department of Justice.

    There is no more need to dwell and rule on substantive issues of the case, according to the SC.

    Senator Antonio Trillanes 4th, Army Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim and members and sympathizers of the Magdalo group walked out of the Makati City Regional Trial Court where their rebellion cases were heard.

    They had marched toward the nearby Manila Peninsula hotel, where they held a news conference, calling for the ouster of then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

    Hundreds of local and foreign journalists trooped to the hotel to cover what has become known as the Manila Peninsula siege.

    Police tried to serve an arrest warrant issued by then-Judge Oscar Pimentel of the Makati City Regional Trial Court (RTC) to the mutineers at the hotel but were rebuffed.

    Then-Director Geary Barias of the National Capital Regional Police Office announced that a police assault to arrest Trillanes, Lim and their supporters was coming.

    He issued an ultimatum for journalists to leave the hotel premises by three o’clock in the afternoon.

    As police carried out an operation against the Magdalo group, they also took into custody the journalists who stayed behind, placing many of them in cuffs, and hauling them off to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City (Metro Manila) for “processing.”

    Equipment and video footage taken by television crew who covered the standoff were seized.

    According to the mediamen, police officers—led by Barias, Chief Supt. Leocadio Santiago Jr., Chief Supt. Luizo Ticman and Senior Supt. Asher Dolina–did not read them their Miranda rights and did not inform them of the offenses for which they were being arrested.

    The police officers also ordered the journalists to raise their arms in surrender, despite fumes from tear gas that Special Action Force commandos had lobbed to flush out the rebels were yet to dissipate.

    The journalists claimed that they were brought into custody without informing them what offense or crime they have committed and without providing them with a lawyer of their own choice.

    Then-Justice chief Gonzales on January 11, 2008 issued a so-called advisory addressed to Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of media networks and press organizations.

    The issuance of the advisory and its contents were extensively reported on and discussed in the media.

    The complainants manifested that they tried to obtain a certified true copy of the advisory from the Justice department, only to be referred to the Presidential Management Staff PMS) at Malacanang.

    They, however, said officials of the PMS gave them the runaround, and they were referred back to the Justice department.

    In the end, the complainants were unable to secure a certified true copy of the advisory for submission to the court because no one in both offices could tell where an official copy of the same could be obtained.

    The Makati City RTC had dismissed the class suit filed by the media practitioners.

    It said the media did not heed Barias’ order to leave the hotel while police effected the arrest of Trillanes, Lim and several members of the Magdalo group who were inside the hotel.

    The court said the journalists were lucky not to face criminal charges for resisting and disobeying persons in authority.

    The case was brought before the appellate court and it eventually reached the SC.

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