Arrested activists violated stay at home policy, risked lives of other people -DILG
MANILA, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said that activists were arrested on Labor Day not because they expressed their political beliefs, but due to violations of the community quarantine regulations.
DILG Undersecretary and spokesperson Jonathan Malaya explained on Friday that the people who protested went against rules that prohibit mass gathering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, therefore endangering their lives and other people.
“The protest rallies clearly violated the stay-at-home policy of the government. It is a form of mass gathering that is prohibited, especially in ECQ areas which are high-risk areas for COVID-19,” Malaya said in a text message to INQUIRER.net.
“By doing so, they risked their lives and the lives of others which government is duty-bound to protect. The Supreme Court has ruled many times that the right to free speech is not absolute and is subject to limitations. Its exercise must be within the bounds of the law,” he added.
Earlier, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) reported that over 50 activists were arrested on Labor Day, including ten relief volunteers who were providing food backs to Marikina City workers affected by the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) over Luzon and other areas.
Another set of youth volunteers in Quezon City who set up a kitchen for workers were arrested, said Anakbayan and Kabataan party-list. The Quezon City Police District (QCPD) has yet to confirm whether the incident is true.
In Marikina, Mayor Marcelino Teodoro ordered the police to free the activists, as the Philippine National Police (PNP) appeared to be ‘overreacting’ towards the volunteers’ act of bringing placards.
While the ECQ over several areas was downgraded to a general community quarantine, the strict lockdown measures still apply to several areas like Metro Manila, Region IV-A, and Iloilo.
However, Malaya insisted that the PNP personnel conducting the arrests only implemented regulations written down under the ECQ. He also asked leftist organizations to channel their complaints through their representatives in the House of Representatives — referring to the left-leaning Makabayan bloc.
Previously, PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa warned that people who troop to the streets to stage Labor Day protests would be arrested.
“The police only implemented the rules as laid down under the law to protect the public and only made arrests after the protesters refused to disband and go back to their homes. Moreover, there was no rally permit granted to them,” Malaya said.
“We appeal for the nth time to these Leftist organizations to stop being pasaway. For the sake of your country, please follow the quarantine rules recommended by DOH to stop the spread of COVID 19. Public gatherings are prohibited because we don’t want this disease to spread further,” he added.
But according to Kabataan and Anakbayan, and the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) which led the volunteers in Quezon City, the activists did not commit any violation as they observed physical distancing measures set by the ECQ.
It is first in the history of the labor sector to switch to an online protest due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced people to stay at home. While their program deviates from the usual march, several activities have been laid out online in celebration of Labor Day.
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