NUPL says lawyer included in arrest of Iloilo activists was responding to incident
MANILA, Philippines – A lawyer who only responded to the arrest of activists in Iloilo City was included among those detained by police officers on Friday, Labor Day, the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) claimed.
NUPL explained that one of their members, lawyer Angelo Karlo Guillen was wrongly arrested by Philippine National Police (PNP) personnel along with other activists that protested the death of Bayan Muna Iloilo coordinator Jory Porquia.
Porquia was shot dead on Thursday morning by two unidentified gunmen outside his house in Barangay Sto. Niño in Iloilo. A former Bayan Muna representative alleged that police were not happy with the slain activist’s role in the city’s relief operations.
“He was reportedly implicated after he and other NUPL lawyers responded and provided legal assistance to rallyists protesting the extrajudicial killing of activist Jory Porquia yesterday,” NUPL said in a statement.
“This is yet another of the harassment, nuisance and idiotic charges against lawyers merely exercising their profession and performing their duties,” they added.
NUPL said that the lawyer and the other protesters are facing possible charges for violation of the Public Assembly Act, Disobedience to Agent of Persons in Authority,Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases, and the National Emergency Act (Bayanihan Law).
Earlier, the labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) said that over 50 activists have been arrested on Labor Day, including 42 in Iloilo City who were protesting Porquia’s death.
KMU chair Elmer Labog accused the government of using the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) as an excuse to arrest activists critical of the government, as they insisted that their protests would be done online and locally, maintaining social distancing.
NUPL said that it appears human rights lawyers are being targeted because of the sensitive issues and cases that they are willing to handle.
“It seems human rights lawyers are especially targeted because of our unflinching conviction and commitment to defend victims and arm them with knowledge and advise on their rights while reconciling with the imperatives of the public health emergency,” NULP explained.
DILG Undersecretary and Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya told INQUIRER.net in a text message on Friday that the people who protested were arrested because they went against rules that prohibit mass gathering due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“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.
Aside from the activists in Iloilo, arrests also happened in Marikina where ten relief volunteers providing food backs to Marikina City workers affected by ECQ were nabbed. Mayor Marcelino Teodoro ordered the police to free the activists as the cops were merely ‘overreacting’.
Another set of youth volunteers in Quezon City who set up a kitchen for workers were arrested, groups Anakbayan and Kabataan party-list said.
The arrests came after police chief Gen. Archie Gamboa warned that people who troop to the streets to stage Labor Day protests would be accosted and fined for violating travel restrictions, set in place to avoid local transmission of the latest coronavirus strain.
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