Meanwhile, an officer also tried and failed to snatch the camera of one of the Perspective’s photojournalists.
“Basically, there was a miscommunication between UPLB offices and ST Pride organizers,” UPLB University Student Council (USC) Chair Siegfred Severino explained in an interview with the Perspective.
This was after an incident that took place yesterday, June 28, when Brgy. Batong Malake officials and University Police Force (UPF) officers attempted to block Southern Tagalog (ST) Pride delegates from holding their program.
Tension heightened when a Philippine National Police (PNP) Los Baños vehicle was spotted in front of Carabao Park, with authorities asking delegates for a “certification” from the UPLB administration or any agency. Additionally, an officer carrying what seemed like a rifle was seen alongside the campus entrance.
This incident in and of itself was perceived as a violation of the UP-DND Accord, which prevents police and military forces from entering any UP campus without permission from the administration.
In a statement with the Perspective later that day, Severino asserted that the event was indeed permitted by the UPLB administration.
“Yes, pinayagan ito ng [UPLB] admin as long as accountable ang USC. Sabi nila, ‘It’s our call and responsibility’, pero [ngayon na nandito na, nalaman namin na] ‘di na-coordinate ng OVCCA sa UPF,” Severino said.
He later expanded on this statement in the succeeding interview.
“USC sent out a letter of request dated June 14, and we only received an answer last Friday, June 25, where OVCCA [Office of the Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs] reminded us about OC Memo 172 that prohibits activity within UPLB. Upon further clarification with VCCA [Roberto] Cereno, the ST Pride March was not given a permit, but there is a verbal understanding between OVCCA and USC that should we push through, USC will take full responsibility and accountability, which we accepted,” Severino explained.
Through radio, Barangay Captain Ian Kalaw asserted that a certificate is needed for the delegates to take part in the event, adding that the program will not be allowed to take place alongside the Grove area (the area directly outside the UPLB entrance) due to social distancing and mass gathering concerns.
As USC negotiated with UPF in their office while organizers negotiated with Kalaw and other officials, delegates stood their ground by displaying their banners, flags, and placards along the campus entrance. The spirit of solidarity was very much alive among the participants amidst threats from police.
“Police elements on the other tried to stop the program on the onset, and harrassed some of the delegates, including publications. They only left when ST Pride organizers asked Brgy. Batong Malake to intervene,” Severino recalled.
True to Severino’s testimony, the camera of Perspective photojournalist DY Sanchez was almost pulled from her by a cop riding on the passenger seat of their car (with the plate number AO P625). Sanchez was able to take a picture of the officer in question before being able to retrieve her camera.
After almost an hour-long delay, ST Pride commenced in Carabao Park without any further interruption from authorities (although police were seen surveying and filming the initial protest before finally leaving). Despite their involvement in initially barring the delegates, barangay officials later helped implement physical distancing in the mobilization, with Kalaw instructing the officials to do so upon his arrival.
What pride is all about
The mobilization began in the Carabao Park at around 4 PM. Different militant groups premièred by the Southern Tagalog Pride and the UPLB Babaylan attended the protest that campaigns for peace and equality “across all gender preferences, expressions, and sexual orientations”.
In a statement, ST Pride Chairperson Dudin Albani that the justice for abuse in the members of LGBTQ+ community have not come into fruition following the leadership of a “macho-fascist” President such as [Rodrigo] Duterte, most notably, his granting of absolute pardon to a US Marine convict Joseph Scott Pemberton in 2020. (READ: We don’t accept pardon for murder)
“It is crystal clear how the Duterte administration’s subservience to foreign interests is harming the LGBTQIA+ community. By allowing the likes of Pemberton to roam free, the regime is sending out a message that oppressors are free to harm our community while getting away with it,” Albani said.
The call for the enactment of the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity Expression (SOGIE) Equality Bill was also amplified in the protest, noting that after more than 20 years of drafting the bill, the passage in the Congress never happened. According to Albani, if the SOGIE Equality Bill cannot be passed, the LGBTQ+ community “remains vulnerable” to threats and discrimination caused by the (still) taboo topic in SOGIE. (READ: LGBTQI+ Filipinos still belittled, silenced under Duterte)
“By lacking urgency in passing the SOGIE Bill, Congress has enabled all cases of aggression towards the LGBTQIA+ community that happened over the years. Their priorities are misaligned. This regime would rather ratify policies such as the Anti-Terror Law that would harm the people rather than laws which will help the marginalized sector, of which our community is included,” Albani stated.
Ending the press release, the ST Pride Chairperson continues to call for a “decent response” to COVID-19, freeing political prisoners, justice, and a “genuine and lasting peace”, saying that the struggle of LGBTQ+ community encompassses all marginalized sectors in the country.
“We from ST Pride believe that the liberation of the LGBTQIA+ community is entailed by the liberation of all sectors in society: farmers, workers, fisherfolk, urban poor, professionals, and more. After all, SOGIE exceeds all walks of life and social class. We unite against all forms of attacks against our community and the masses,” Albani said.
In his concluding statements, Severino condemned the national government for its continued negligence in heeding to the needs of the Filipino people, which led to the program being organized in the first place.
“Once again we have shown the power of collective action and militancy in asserting our rights to democratic and safe spaces. However, this should not be the case in the first place. If only the government ha[d] coherent and logical plans to end the pandemic, we [would] not have to go through such lengths just to pull off a 2-hour program in an open space,” Severino said.
He then asserted that pride is “first and foremost” a protest, hinting that this will not be the last time a protest would be organized until Duterte is ousted from office.
Must be camera shy
In a statement released by the Perspective, the incident involving Sanchez was a “desperate move from the police” so as to not make the people informed of their inadequateness and being illegally present inside the campus.
“Kinukundena sa pinakamataas na antas ng UPLB Perspective ang pagtatangkang ito ng pulisya — isang institusyong may mahabang kasaysayan ng harassment, pagpatay, at panunupil sa mga batayang karapatang pantao — na busalan ang aming kritikal at militanteng pamamahayag laban sa mga abusadong makapangyarihang indibidwal at institusyon,” the Perspective explained in their latest editorial.
This was not the only case of ‘camera-grabbing’ incidents by the police that happened during mobilizations in Southern Tagalog. The camera of James Jericho Bajar was also attempted to be captured in a protest in Crossing, Calamba against the then-Anti-Terror Bill in June 2020. (READ: [P] staffer threatened by Calamba cops)
“Bilang mga miyembro ng midyang pang-kampus, ang pagtataguyod sa aming karapatan at seguridad bilang mga mamamahayag ang dapat inaatupag ng PNP LB. Pero sa halip na pagbibigay ng proteksyon, inilagay sa alanganin ng pulisya ang seguridad at karapatan ng aming photojournalist at ng mga indibidwal na dumalo sa nasabing protesta,” the publication continued. [P]
Photos from Pola Rubio and DY Sanchez
Additional reports by Mark Ernest Famatigan, Joaquin Gonzalez, and Reuben Pio Martinez