Students, workers condemn Labor Day arrests in Zambales, Cebu
SAN ANTONIO, Zambales, Philippines —Several groups have called for the release of the 11 student activists arrested here on Labor Day.
The activists, who belong to the militant League of Filipino Students (LFS), were accosted in Zambales province for allegedly failing to maintain social distancing inside a van.
Police said the students were heading for Angeles City in nearby Pampanga province to join a rally when their 15-seater van was flagged down at a checkpoint in the boundary of Subic and Castillejos towns at around 7:30 a.m. and was found to be “overloaded.”
Col. Romano Cardiño, Zambales police director, said the students were subjected to inquest proceedings and remained in police custody.
“The activists were charged with violation of health protocols at the provincial prosecutor’s office,” Cardiño told the Inquirer in a text message on Sunday.
He said additional charges for disobedience in persons of authority were filed against the students when they refused to disclose their identities while being investigated.
Recovered from the activists were placards with the messages, “Stop the attacks” and “Solusyong medikal, hindi militar (Medical solution, not military),” police said.
The LFS members claimed they were “deliberately targeted” by the police.
“There was nothing wrong with attending a rally and we did not violate any law,” one of them told the Inquirer.
In a statement, LFS lambasted the “series of harassment, intimidation and illegal arrests of Mayo Uno protesters.”
“These arrests, on Labor Day no less, are proof that as the pandemic rages on, leaving millions ill, hungry and unemployed, Duterte forces the people to die in silence,” the group said.
The College Editors Guild of the Philippines in Central Luzon (CEGP-CL) also demanded the release of the activists.
“[The arrest] clearly demonstrates that a constitutional tongue practicing its right to air out grievance plays as a threat to the despotic Duterte administration,” CEGP-CL said in a statement.
According to Anakbayan, detaining the students was among the “pathetic attempts to gag the masses and obscure their growing discontent” with the Duterte administration.
“No amount of intimidation and arrests could hide the government’s criminal neglect of its starving workers, turtle-paced financial aid and sorry state of health-care system during the pandemic,” Anakbayan said.
In Cebu City, militant groups said the arrest on Saturday of 14 of their members for violating health protocols was meant to stop them from joining the Labor Day rally in the city.
The group, composed of workers and members of urban poor communities, were on board a van en route to the Fuente Osmeña Circle for a Labor Day march when flagged down by policemen for not observing physical distancing.
Police Maj. Armando Labora, chief of the Abellana Police Station, said only 10 people were allowed inside van-type vehicles as mandated in a city ordinance on protocols to be observed during the modified general community quarantine now prevailing in the city.
Jaime Paglinawan, chair of Alyansa sa mga Mamumuo sa Sugbo-Kilusang Mayo Uno and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Central Visayas, said the arrested protesters were detained at the Barangay Cogon Ramos gymnasium before they were released after paying a fine of P500 each on Saturday afternoon.
“What happened to the 14 protesters was an act of harassment,” Paglinawan said.
Labora insisted the militants were not harassed or prevented from joining the rally, pointing out that some 200 militants were able to march from Fuente Osmeña to Plaza Independencia in downtown Cebu for their Labor Day protest.
—REPORTS FROM JOANNA ROSE AGLIBOT AND ADOR VINCENT MAYOL
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