MANILA - A Quezon City metropolitan court has found 38 members of urban poor group Kadamay guilty of other forms of trespassing and fined them P200 each for occupying a fenced-off Quezon City property in 2017, while dismissing cases against 3 others who died during the course of the 4-year trial.
In a court document dated Feb. 22 but was released on Tuesday, QC Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 43 Judge Don Ace Mariano Alagar said the 38 accused unlawfully entered a lot in Tandang Sora and violated Article 281 of the Revised Penal Code.
Members of urban poor group Kadamay, who were mostly women and senior citizens, previously said they were the occupants of the compound but were evicted by its owners.
Authorities also demolished their makeshift houses almost a year before the trespassing happened, supposedly without the provision of any relocation sites, they said.
This compelled them to go back to the property, owned by Reynaldo Guiyab, Jose Gonzales, and Edna Camcam, as the members said they had nowhere else to go. They then destroyed GI sheets that fenced off the property in order to get in.
But the court pointed out that the Kadamay members were unauthorized to enter the premises after being removed from their houses, which were demolished in June 2016.
"The occupants returned to the closed premises or fenced estate which was uninhabited because of an impending MMDA (Metropolitan Manila Development Authority) operation without the consent of their owners, the ruling read.
The judge also disagreed with some of the members' justification that they entered the property due to an "impending MMDA operation that would force them out of the streets."
He said the clearing operations of the MMDA "enjoys the presumption of regularity and therefore lawful and legal."
"The evil sought to be avoided -- the alleged clearing operations of the MMDA -- is merely expected or anticipated," it read.
"The defense of the accused does not even satisfy the first element that there is an evil sought to be avoided as the alleged clearing operation of the MMDA... If the evil sought to be avoided is merely expected or anticipated... This defense is not applicable.”
Because the court, he said, understood that their motive was driven by self-preservation, the Kadamay members were instead penalized by a fine, not imprisonment.
The cases against 3 others— Tirso and Aileen Mangubat, and Mark Anthony Roadilla— were dismissed as they died in the course of the 4-year trial.
In 2018, members of the Kadamay local chapter Montalban Homeless Association (MHA) trooped to the La Solidaridad-Avilon Zoo housing project in Rizal supposedly to occupy idle housing units. They were dispersed later on.
The MHA urged the government to allow them to occupy the allegedly idle housing units. — With a report from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News