Militant groups rallied near the Supreme Court on Tuesday morning (Feb. 16) to call for the junking of the Anti-Terrorism Law and to condemn the raid and arrest of members of an indigenous group in Cebu City.
A few hours before the third oral arguments on the 37 petitions filed against the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) began, the groups denounced the arrest of the 25 members of an indigenous group in what the police called a “rescue operation” at the Lumad Bakwit School in Cebu City on Monday, Feb. 15.
Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago, who joined the protest action, said the police’s “rescue operation” was an illegal arrest.
“Rescue operations ba ‘yon? Ang nakita po natin hindi naghuhumiyaw at umiiyak sa tuwa kundi nag huhumiyaw at umiiyak dahil sa takot (Is that what you would call rescue operations? We saw that they were not screaming and crying because of joy but because of fear),” she said during the rally.
“Ganon po ang dulot ng ganitong operasyon kung saan walang paggalang sa karapatan sa sariling pagpapasiya ng ating pambansang minorya (That is the result of this kind of operation wherein there is no respect for the rights of our national minority),” she added.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) claimed that they conducted the “rescue operation” at the Lumad Bakwit School in Cebu City following complaints from tribal leaders and parents of the alleged missing seven boys and 14 girls. They said that the minors have been missing since 2018.
However, a live video of the arrest showed the minors screaming and crying in the background while the police conducted the raid. Among the 25 people arrested are lawyers, teachers, and an elderly Lumad.
The arrest sparked backlash against the police online.
Elago also called for the junking of the feared Anti-Terrorism Law.
“Habang patuloy natin pinapanawagan ang pagbabasura ng Terror Law, kailangan din natin na tuloy-tuloy na palakasin ang ating boses para sa hustisya at pananagutan (While we continue to call on to junk the Terror Law, we need to continuously raise our voice for justice and accountability),” she said.
The groups also scored the Duterte administration for the thousands of extrajudicial killings in the country and its pandemic response.
This as more Filipinos go hungry and unemployed amid the COVID-19 crisis.