DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Several groups called for the release of eight individuals arrested by authorities during a protest rally against the anti-terror bill (ATB) in Cebu City on Friday, June 5.
The National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUJP) called for the immediate release of the arrested individuals including three of their former and present members.
Apprehended by the police were seven activists from different progressive organizations and one bystander, collectively called “Cebu 8”, at the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu campus for the alleged violation of mass gathering under the general community quarantine (GCQ).
They were subjected to inquest proceedings on Saturday morning, June 6, but their legal team has yet to obtain a copy of the official complaint. They were also reportedly transferred from Camp Sotera Cabahug to Police Station 3 for further detention.
A fundraising drive is being done for Cebu 8’s current needs and bail. A number of individuals, came together, albeit virtually, to express their support.
GUYS LET'S HELP #RELEASECEBU7!!!
Inaresto mga kasama natin sa Cebu for protesting against Terror Bill!!
— Chad Booc 🔥 (@KasamangChad) June 5, 2020
The peaceful rally was intended to express indignation against Congress’ passage of the Anti-Terrorism Bill which was widely criticized by the public for its sweeping provisions feared to curtail basic rights and silence dissent. A similar protest was held at UP Diliman campus last Thursday, June 4.
In a media interview, the police said they arrested the protesters for violating the Omnibus Guidelines on the Implementation of Community Quarantine which prohibits mass gathering.
But law students under the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL)-Cebu argued that “such guidelines do not even prescribe penalties for supposed violations”, thus cannot be used to justify warrantless arrests.
“A community quarantine does not suspend our constitutional rights. A pandemic does not justify the curtailment of our rights and liberties,” the group said in a statement.
Illegal, violent, disappointing
The UP Cebu’s Student Council strongly condemned the “illegal” arrest made by police officers, with some dressed in civilian clothes. It also slammed the police’s entry to the campus which violated the accord made by UP and the Department of National Defense (DND) in 1989.
The UP Office of the Student Regent also criticized the police for the “violent dispersal” on the protest “intended to voice out the people’s calls” against the ATB.
“This proves how much worse the national situation would be if the Terror Bill is enacted into law, inevitably causing the surge of human rights violations,” UP Student Regent Isaac Punzalan said.
UP Cebu Chancellor Liza Corro said the school administration is “deeply disappointed” that the police did not coordinate with UP Cebu for a “more sound and sensible” resolution amid restrictions under GCQ.
“As we gather more facts on the ground about the incident, we are coordinating with UP System officials on the legal and other aspects of the matter, especially with the respect to the 1989 UP-DND Peace Accord,” she noted in her initial statement. (davaotoday.com)