By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senator Ralph Recto on Monday, June 29, slammed the police for arresting members of a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ+) group who participated in a protest rally in Manila last week in time of the “Pride Month.”
“We should be aghast at the sight of officers of the law arresting marchers who were exercising their constitutional rights in a manner compliant with pandemic protocols, unable to cite what laws were violated,” the Senate President Pro Tempore said in a statement.
Recto issued the statement after the Manila Police District (MPD) arrested last Friday at least 20 members of LGBTQ+ rights group Bahaghari and other allied individuals who held a Pride March in Mendiola, Manila.
The protesters wore face masks and observed physical distancing when police accosted them. Photos and videos posted on social media showed the MPD’s violent dispersal of the protesters.
The MPD said the rallyists were arrested for illegal assembly in violation of the Public Assembly Act of 1985 and for their supposed non-cooperation in violation of Republic Act 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act.
But Recto said: “Pride marches celebrate equality so only the tone-deaf will respond to its commemoration with violence and intolerance.”
“It is an internationally celebrated activity and it is only in lands ruled by bigotry that a Pride march and all the ideas it espouses are repressed – by Talibans, the Ayatollahs, new czars of Russia, and by the Nazis an era ago. The Philippines should not be in this column,” he pointed out.
“For decades and through several administrations, maximum tolerance was the hallmark of police behavior during peaceful assemblies. It appears that this policy has been conquered by the virus of intolerance,” he said, taking a swipe at the MPD.
Earlier, the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), human rights groups and other progressive groups criticized the arrest of the protesters who called for the scrapping of the Anti-Terrorism Bill and the planned phase out of old jeepneys.
Three of the rallyists were later freed by the MPD since they were minors.