By Ruben Belmonte, Jr.
Flagging blind obedience to assumed power and authority, flocks of men-in-uniform dispersed at several locations in the country, tensioning the protestors’ mananita party yesterday, June 12.
The Philippines celebrated the marking of its 122nd Independence Day, with protesters congregated to some places to conduct a Mañanita parties and demonstrations to voice the country’s plight against the controversial Anti-Terrorism Bill that is one step away from becoming a law.
The Mañanita theme celebration of Independence Day stemmed fromNational Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Debold Sinas and his renowned breaching of quarantine protocols enkindled the thematic display exhibiting the birthday-inspired concept by the protestors yesterday.
Diliman’s Grand Mañanita
In spite of that, the protestors had to experience first the presence of several police officers who attempted to block the participants from entering through unofficial checkpoints, even interrogating them, like that in University of the Philippines Diliman – where one of the biggest gatherings took place.
UP Law student Meg Sandoval shared her experience with regards to this. She detailed how she and her colleagues were blocked by policemen on the university entry point by questioning their entrance in the campus.
However, when asked on what ground they were being denied entry and why the officers were there, they did not receive a definitive answer. The police even went as far as following them inside the campus, physically standing in their way with arms outstretched. Fearing for their safety, they decided to go home carrying displeasure that they were effectively denied their right to assemble.
On top of that, the police and the military are not even allowed to enter any UP campus without authorization from the UP administration pursuant to the UP-DND Accord.
Arrests in Iligan
Even worse, in Iligan City, Lanao Del Norte, sixteen student protesters from Mindanao State University (MSU) were arrested after raising calls on the junking of anti-terrorism bill and mass testing for COVID-19.
The Iligan police claimed that during the protest, health protocols on physical distancing were not observed. The protesters asserted that health protocols were observed, adding that the arrest was illegal. Hours later, they were released from police custody.
A ‘batallion’ flocks La Salle
Aside from UP Diliman, there was also a police disturbance that occurred at the main campus of De La Salle University (DLSU) in Manila. Carrying truncheons, a large group of around 40 to 50 police personnel appeared and was seen roaming in the area outside the Taft-based campus even before the protest started. The police outnumbered less than 20 protestors inside the campus premises.
It was first reported by lawyer Erin Tañada after he visited the campus to join the protest. He tweeted, “Happy #122IndependenceDay here at DLSU Taft. When the program started, there were 40 PNP in fatigues that appeared at the gates. Thank you DLSU for fighting for what is right.”
Regardless of this, La Sallian protesters continued raising their placards and calls on their right to free speech and against the Anti-Terror bill.
Assurance from lawyers
The National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) assured that it is legal to join a peaceful protest despite the implementation of community quarantine. The union said that R.A. No. 11469 (Bayanihan Act) and R.A. 11332 (Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases) do not prohibit rallies. They do not have provisions allowing arrests simply on alleged violation of “mass gathering or quarantine rules. [P]
Photo by Dean Valmeo