By Ben R. Rosario
Arrests of activists in various enhanced and general community quarantine areas in the country and the murder of a Bayan Muna leader in Iloilo triggered a flurry of statements of condemnations, blaming the government for the incidents.
In separate statements, members of the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives chided the administration for the alleged arrest and harassment of activists who initiated various Labor Day activities in the wake of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis.
The Gabriela Women’s Partylist described as illegal the arrest of 42 persons who held an indignation protest caravan to condemn the slaying of Bayan Muna coordinator Jory Porquia in Iloilo.
“Despite wearing face masks and observing social distancing, police denied the request of activists to allow them to lay a wreath and light a candle where Porquia was murdered,” said Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas.
Notwithstanding the ECQ condition in various areas of the country, Filipinos should be allowed to publicly air their grievances as provided for in the Constitution, said Brosas.
House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said the arrest of the protesters in Iloilo is but an indication of the Duterte administration’s fear of government critics.
“The protesters were observing social distancing and all are wearing masks and were still in the process of holding a protest caravan due to the extrajudicial killing of Ka Jory, they should not have been arrested,” he said.
Zarate noted a similar rally staged by Duterte supporter Mocha Uson but law enforcement agency did not stop her despite the clear violation of the social distancing measures during the pro-government mass action.
“This smacks of pure hypocrisy and double standard as last week’s pro-government gatherings, like what Mocha Uson organized for OFWs, were in fact allowed with little or no social distancing and even defended by the administration,” said Zarate.
ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. France Castro assailed the police for allegedly harassing teacher volunteers while delivering aid to on-duty workers as part of the observance of Labor Day on Friday.
The alleged harassment took place on Visayas Avenue when police officials and men on civilian attire blocked the teacher’s group as it transported food and face masks to workers in establishments in the area.
“The Duterte administration has already been very slow in the delivery of aid and medical solutions in this COVID-19 pandemic, now they are imposing intensified military solutions that only further delays the delivery of aid to those who most need it,” lamented Castro.
Meanwhile, Brosas condemned the arrest of 10 relief workers conducting a community-feeding program in Barangay IVC in Marikina City.
“The unlawful arrest of 10 relief workers in Marikina is a powerful illustration of the Duterte administration is using the pandemic and the ECQ suppress dissent and violate civil liberties and basic human rights. We call for the immediate release of the illegally detained relief workers,” she said.