This afternoon, Atty. Benjamin Militar, assisted by two non-lawyers who took up the challenge to assert the rule of law in this challenging time, confirmed that Ms. Maria Victoria Beltran was held at the Police Regional Office (PRO) 7. Atty. Militar was able to talk to her and obtain information about his arrest.
Ms. Beltran would be assisted in this case by a team of lawyers who had taken the case pro bono, coming from different law offices and of differing political persuasions, united primarily by their assertion that the rule of law is not suspended even during the time of the pandemic, and the ordinary citizen retains the right to comment freely on matters of public concern.
We reiterate our earlier statement that this is such a petty case, and there are other more pressing matters that should be prioritized by this administration. It is absurd how much resources of the State was expended in arresting Ms. Beltran, and how much more would be used up to drag her to inquest proceedings and to trial, should the public prosecution office, in its discretion, believe that she should be held for trial. Meanwhile, most of our population are in fear of further infections from the dreaded virus, and a sizable portion of the city’s population are in danger of starvation in our midst.
Thus of us who personally know Ms. Beltran, Bambi to us, see her as a woman of strength with a great concern for society, an institution in the intelligentsia of the city. If the State could do this to her, how much more for those who are simply asking a valid question on social media regarding why their families were taken off the social amelioration list, while families they perceive to be better off than them remain in the list?
We urge law enforcers to be more circumspect in the exercise of their authority to arrest without a warrant. Republic Act No. 11469 did not expand the authority given under the Rules of Court. Furthermore, the freedom of every person to express what is in her mind, a Constitutionally guaranteed right, was not curtailed by the existence of this pandemic. The fake news provision under Section 6(f) of the Bayanihan Act should be used by our law enforcers and local chief executives to prosecute those who clearly has the intent to sow fear and confusion, not to those who had a witty remark on the government’s response to this crisis. If a local chief executive’s comment that Cebu is the epicenter of the disease was not a cause for the arrest of the said executive, why would Ms. Beltran’s comment that Cebu City is now the epicenter in the whole Solar System be actionable?
I would like to thank Atty. Benjamin Militar for taking the trip to PRO 7 this afternoon. Unfortunately, I am in the province right now. My gratitude as well as to other volunteer lawyers.