KMU claims over 50 activists nabbed on Labor Day, says gov’t using ECQ as excuse
MANILA, Philippines – Over 50 activists were arrested on Friday, Labor Day with government forces supposedly using the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) due to COVID-19 as an excuse, a labor group claimed.
Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) said that the government arrested the activists even though they were using an online type of protest and other localized forms, in accordance with physical distancing measures in place.
“This year, in keeping with the limitations imposed by the pandemic, protesters have focused on online rallies, social media posts and hashtags, and small, brief actions in workplaces or in the streets wherein all participants maintain social distancing and wear masks,” KMU chairperson Elmer Labog said in a statement.
“However, even as the administration pledged to ‘reaffirm the government’s commitment to uphold the dignity of labor’, the Duterte regime — notorious for its anti-labor, pro-corporate policies and programs, such as its refusal to end contractualization — used Labor Day as an excuse to arrest activists, labor leaders, and relief volunteers,” he added.
According to KMU, 42 activists in Iloilo City who were protesting the killing of Bayan Muna Iloilo coordinator Jory Porquia were nabbed by police officers. Another 10 persons who were part of a relief operation in Marikina City were detained after they distributed food packs in celebration of Labor Day.
KMU said that two other persons in Montalban were accosted while other beverage workers in Laguna were arrested based on accusations that they are part of the communist rebel group New People’s Army.
“The police have also tried systematically to intimidate the members and leaders of people’s rights groups. On the eve of May 1, police vehicles were spotted on surveillance outside the KMU headquarters in Quezon City,” Labog said.
“Local organizations have also reported police and military deployment across urban poor and workers’ communities in Metro Manila,” he added.
Earlier, Marikina Mayor Marcelino Teodoro ordered the release of the ten relief volunteers, as the Philippine National Police (PNP) appeared to be ‘overreacting’ towards people bringing placards.
Reports said that the relief volunteers brought placards with them calling for mass COVID-19 testing, and were apprehended by police officers even if they were observing physical distancing.
“Nag-overreact ‘yung PNP, eh. Hindi dapat inaresto dahil wala namang ginagawang masama yung mga kababayan natin,” Teodoro said in a statement. “Maaring may placards silang dala pero May 1 ngayon, eh, bahagi ito ng pag-e-exercise nitong constitutional rights nila na freedom of expression.”
(The PNP was overreacting. They should not have arrested them because the volunteers did not do anything wrong. They might have placards but today is May 1, Labor Day and this is an exercise of their constitutional rights which is freedom of expression.)
KMU and other labor groups have laid out several activities for the day, which deviates from the usual march to Mendiola Peace Arch for programs. Most of the programs would be held online, to avoid local transmission of the latest coronavirus strain.
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