11 activists protesting enactment of Anti-Terrorism Law arrested in Cabuyao

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
11 activists protesting enactment of Anti-Terrorism Law arrested in Cabuyao
Eleven activists holding an indignation protest against the ball near the Barangay Pulo Hall in Cabuyao, Laguna were arrested by police on Saturday. 
Release / Bahaghari on Twitter

MANILA, Philippines — Within a day of the enactment of the controversial Anti-Terror Bill , police arrested eleven activists holding an indignation protest near the Barangay Pulo Hall in Cabuyao, Laguna.

In a video posted by the University of Santo Tomas chapter of the League of Filipino Students, the eleven protesters said that the peaceful protest was violently dispersed by personnel the Cabuyao City Police Station and the 2nd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army at the end of their program. Some of them were dragged. 

"At 4:30 p.m., a military vehicle was parked opposite [7 Eleven] Pulo playing propaganda against the [Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army] on speakers that said they are recruiting young people and they have legal and illegal means of struggle. I've never heard of anyone else and I've just been waiting for someone else," a statement by labor center Pamantik KMU said, quoting one of the demonstrators. 

Membership in an activist organization is not the same thing as membership in the CPP-NPA, although the government has been insisting that activist groups are front organizations of communist rebels.

That same day, Police Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac, PNP spokesperson, in a statement sent to reporters, said that the national police welcomed the chief executive's approval of the law.

"PNP assures that it wil not be abused and we shall faithfully uphold all institutional mechanisms that provide safeguards to its implementation," the short statement read. 

The Anti-Terrorism Law will take effect 15 days after publication in the Official Gazette and in newspapers of general circulation and the 11 arrested were not detained because of the law. Critics of the bill, now a law, have said, though, that it can be used to silence dissent and criticism of the government.

According to Pamantik KMU, the 11 arrested were:

  1. Kyle Salgado - Karapatan ST
  2. Casey Cruz - Bayan ST
  3. Shirley Songalia Gabriela ST 
  4. Helen Catahay - Gabriela
  5. Fatima Banjawan - Gabriela
  6. Emmanuel Numeron - BM youth
  7. Jemme Mia Antonio - Liga ng Manggagawa
  8. Miguel Portea - Starter Piston
  9. Sweden John Aberde -  Pamantik KMU
  10. Renero Maarat - Pamantik KMU
  11. Marife Valdeavilla - KPL Laguna

Rights group Karapatan said that the 11 were not informed of the charges against them before they were arrested. Police are supposed to read a person being arrested their rights and inform them why they are being arrested.

The 11 are still detained at the Cabuyao City Police Station as of this post.

The warrantless arrests of protesters without reading Miranda rights or being told of the reason for their arrest has been common during the months-long COVID-19 quarantine.

In two instances, cops said that the arrests were due to social distancing reasons, though the Bayanihan Heal as One Act, the law granting President Duterte special powers, has since expired. Those arrested also reported a litany of procedural violations while in detention. 

READ: Students allege harassment, procedural violations in Iligan City protest arrests | UP Cebu protesters 'tried the tolerance of police, went too far' — PNP chief | 20 arrested at Pride march against anti-terror bill in Manila

Similar apparent violations of quarantine rules — an early morning birthday gathering or a visit to a dolphin theme park — by government officials have not been met with arrests or even any official reprimand.

Anti-Terror Law

Activists and lawyers have slammed the law for what they said are its draconian provisions, which authorizes the warrantless detention of people suspected of being terrorists for up to 24 days without formal charges.

Earlier in June, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año was quoted as saying in a mix of Filipino and English that: "If any abuses come out, it says there in the law anyway that [violators will] get 10 years imprisonment."

"That's anyone who arrests without adhering to the rules of court or conducts wiretapping without authorization or court order, or any torture or violations of human rights. That's 10 years imprisonment and banning from government positions. As long as they are not committing any crime or inciting to sedition or rebellion, they can actually express their grievances through peaceful means of course. So we will not tolerate or allow this,” Año added.

As it stands, though, elements of the national police have already actively and publicly red-tagged activists and solons found to be critical of the administration. "The law has not been implemented yet but we are already seeing how worse the police can be against anyone speaking out against the government," Justin Umali, chairperson of Kabataan Party-list Laguna, said in a statement in Filipino. 

READ: Dura 'Likes': PNP social media rules and what police actually post | PNP 'art' tags activists as terrorists amid debate on anti-terrorism bill

The first petition against the law was filed electronically at the Supreme Court on Saturday by a group of Ateneo and La Salle law professors seeking to nullify certain provisions. — with reports from Ratziel San Juan 

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