By John Paul Omac
After almost six hours of negotiation and intense pressure from Southern Tagalog groups, UPLB students, and other nationalist organizations; the Kawit police have finally released the 13 arrested protesters, including three UPLB students, around 3:00 pm , June 12.
Romina Marcaida, Charissa Cañeso, and John Carlo Alberto, along ten others, were released yesterday afternoon after they were arrested and detained by the Kawit police early morning of June 12. The group, dubbed as the “Kawit 13”, was arrested after they staged a lightning rally in front of the Aguinaldo shrine in commemoration of the 117th independence day of the Philippines.
Marcaida served as Anakbayan-UPLB Secretary-General and UPLB University Student Council (USC) Councilor while Alberto is the current Basic Masses Integration (BMI) Head of Anakbayan-UPLB and is an incoming College of Veterinary Medicine Student Council (CVM SC) Councilor. Cañeso, on the other hand is a member of the League of Filipino Students-UPLB (LFS-UPLB).
The group denounced the sham freedom the country currently has and called to fight for genuine sovereignty in light of the foreign interventions of the United States and the bullying of China in the West Philippine Sea.
The lightning rally resulted into a scuffle, with the police dispersing and arresting the protesters.
According to reports from Anakbayan UPLB, Alberto sustained wounds in his shoulder during the arrest. Cañeso, on the other hand, was separated from the group and was brought alone to the municipal police station.
“Free Kawit 13”
Various groups from different sectors in Southern Tagalog led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Southern Tagalog (BAYAN-ST) immediately stormed the Kawit Police Station and held an indignation rally to call for the release of the arrested protesters.
Support for the Kawit 13 also poured immediately on social media. Student organizations and individuals right away issued statements denouncing the act and calling for the release of the detainees. In a statement, Anakbayan-UPLB stated the irony of the celebration of Independence Day while the state curtails the freedom of expression of its people. “Ganito ba ang kalayaan sa ating bayan? Ganito ba ang isang malayang Pilipinas?” Anakbayan-UPLB said in their statement.
LFS-UPLB, on the other hand, emphasized the prevailing use of state violence against”those who continue to fight for [their] right.” In their statement, they connected the arrests to the use of violence against the workers of Tanduay Distillers Inc. who are up to now are still on strike to demand for their regularization.
Meanwhile, labor group Pagkakaisa ng mga Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan-Kilusang Mayo Uno (PAMANTIK-KMU), in a press release, revealed that workers who were set to join the protest march were also blocked by police forces in Noveleta, Cavite and experienced harassment from intelligence agents.
Initial reports said that the group will be filed with charges of illegal assembly.
However, Article 146 of the Revised Penal code qualifies an illegal assembly as:
- Meeting attended by armed persons where the purpose is to commit any crime; or
- Meeting wherein audience, whether armed or not, is incited to commit treachery, rebellion, sedition, or direct assault.
The lightning rally, however, was done as a call for people to unite against foreign intervention.
Without clear basis, charges against the group were dropped. The Kawit 13 were released with only a blotter record.
Despite the seeming victory, PAMANTIK-KMU maintained that the dispersal and arrests that transpired where unjust. “naninindigan ang PAMANTIK-KMU na hindi makatarungan ang naganap na pagdisperse at pag-aresto, kailangang managot ng mga pulis na naging sangkot sa pandarahas sa mamamayan.”[P]