A Manila Today intern was also almost arrested because cops mistook the journalist as a protester since he was wearing a University of the Philippines (UP) jacket.
By Reuben Pio Martinez
On the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall riots on June 26, the Manila Police District (MPD) police forces detained 20 peaceful protesters while conducting a Pride March in Mendiola to condemn the Anti-Terror Bill and the slow response of the administration to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The demonstration started peacefully, with LGBTQ+ activists and individuals marching in unity calls for free mass testing, fair distribution of financial aids, junking the terror bill, and respect for queer citizens. However, at around 10:30 am., fully armed police personnel violently disrupted the demonstration. This is despite the participants observing social distances and wearing face masks, as safety measures during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brig. Gen. Rolly Miranda, the chief of the MPD, confirmed the arrests that took place along Morayta Street. According to Adrian Puse of Altermidya, MPD allegedly mobilized as a response to a supposed scenario that involved a protester spraying an unknown substance on an officer’s face. Puse denied this, and affirmed that their footage, which covered the entire demonstration, proved that no such event took place.
The detained composed of 10 members LGBTQIA+ national democratic organization Bahaghari, four from both the women’s alliance GABRIELA and the children’s rights advocate group SALINLAHI, and two drivers.
Notable members of the collectively named “Pride 20” include GABRIELA deputy secretary general Joan Salvador, GABRIELA Rep. Arlene Brosas staff member Chriztina Madlangbayan, and two unnamed GABRIELA national office workers: women’s legal counselors Dimple Paz Bonganay and Liw Estavillo. Bahaghari National spokesperson, Campaigns, and Propaganda head Rey Valmores-Salinas was also among the detained.
Live footage released by Bahaghari revealed that the protestors were forced by authorities to return where they were supposed to start the program. An unseen speaker mentioned that while the police, who blocked their exit, promised that there will be no arrests, they are already suspicious after apprehending already two Bahaghari members.
According to an online post from GABRIELA Women’s Party, the police allegedly confiscated the attendees’ vehicles, which the officers used to bring the demonstrators to the MPD Headquarters in United Nations Avenue. GABRIELA mentioned that Pride 20, including Madlangbayan, a UP Manila graduate, was violently taken into a van by the officers in an attempt to control the protestors.
Netizens who saw the footage were alarmed by how the arresting officers’ refusal to explain the grounds for the detainment, but also for not reading the Miranda Rights on the spot. Republic Act (RA) No. 7438 enforced the need for suspects’ rights to be silent and to have independent counsel to be read by authorities. Any officer found guilty of violating such measures would receive a fine of P6,000, a prison sentence of eight to 10 years, or both at the same time.
The members of Pride 20 were recently seen in Manila City Hall for the inquest proceedings or a formal inquiry into their case.
The College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) reported that the police attempted to arrest media practitioners who were covering the protest.
One of them was an intern for alternative news outlet Manila Today, National Union of Students in the Philippines (NUSP) Metro Manila vice chairperson Habagat Farrales. According to the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP), the police, after identifying that Farrales was a UP Manila student, sought identification for him to continue his coverage. They proceeded to drag Farrales into a vehicle, only for the police to release immediately afterwards.
CEGP referenced an almost similar incident that occurred a day prior. Four policemen reportedly harassed GMA reporter Mark Gene Makalalad in Marikina, while covering the area’s traffic. According to Makalalad in his Facebook post, the officers asked him if he was a journalist, in addition to asking for valid identification, clarifying that the police were ensuring that he was not “an enemy.”
The police added that Makalalad should have asked for permission before broadcasting, while asking for assurance that the police were not in his footage. Maklalad himself assured that they were not seen in the recording.
Pride as a protest
Immediately after the story was made, Bahaghari, GABRIELA, and other groups condemned the violent arrests, while seeking monetary donations to bail the arrested 20. Many alliances and groups expressed further fear and condemnation on the infamous Anti-Terrorism Bill, which has been linked to recent, separate attacks on farmers and progressive individuals.
“Violent, militaristic, irrational responses are the only acts grasped by this Draconian Duterte government in times of crisis like COVID-19 pandemic. Just imagine what will happen if the Terror Bill will be signed into law,” GABRIELA said.
According to the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), the police is attempting to charge the protestors with violating Batas Pambansa (BP) Blg. 880, or the Public Assembly Act of 1985, and Revised Penal Code on “Resistance and Disobedience to a Person in Authority or the Agents of Such Person,” which is linked to RA 11332 (Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases Law).
Regarding this, the NUPL claimed that the attempted charges against the 20 are baseless, highlighting how no specific section in BP Blg. 880 restricted protests, and that the violent handling of the situation by the police made the second charge void
“How can one resist or seriously disobey an order of a police officer (assuming one has been validly issued), when he is already physically restrained by a group of policemen armed with truncheons and battle gear? When one is already being dragged by operatives and forcefully placed inside the police car? When the police officers took over the driver seat of the vehicle carrying the protesters? Evidently, the elements constituting the felony are absent,” the union said. They added that the violation for reporting diseases is nonsensical in context.
Meanwhile, the NUJP reiterated that it is not illegal for an individual to take photos in public areas. “Again, we stress, an ID is not required of anyone to shoot images in public spaces where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy,” the group said. They also urged the Philippine National Police (PNP) to investigate all incidents relating to media harassments.
Those present also commemorated the 51 years since the Stonewall uprising, an event that took place in June, 1969. This was a major turning point for pride after LGBTQIA+ individuals in New York City, protested against police brutality towards queer people. Bahaghari noted how little had changed, since events such as the most recent illegal arrests proved it. (READ: Pride is an inter-sectoral struggle) [P]
Photo by Gerard Carreon/Associated Press