#ReleaseCebu7 trends in PH as netizens condemn arrest of Cebu City activists
MANILA, Philippines – Following the arrest of at least 7 activists in an indignation rally in Cebu City on Friday, June 5, Filipinos online urged authorities to #ReleaseCebu7.
This came as students and members of various youth and progressive groups held a mass mobilization near the University of the Philippines Cebu to denounce the approval of the anti-terrorism bill.
Before the protest began, police officers were spotted near the rally site.
The rally started peacefully until the protesters were met by Cebu City police in combat gear and members of the SWAT team. According to the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) Cebu, protesters were told they would be given 5 minutes to stop the protest otherwise, the police would forcefully disperse them.
A few minutes later, protesters scurried towards UP Cebu after police officers moved to disperse them. The cops followed them inside the campus.
CEGP Cebu said that UP Cebu guards were seen helping with the dispersal but Chancellor Liza Corro denied this, emphasizing that the guards instead blocked the police from entering the campus and even chased them out when they jumped into the walls of the university as they ran after the student protesters.
Meanwhile, CEGP condemned the arrest, saying it was “unjust” and what the government was doing was a “militaristic approach instead of heeding the people's demands."
The UP Office of the Student Regent echoed this citing that the arrest clearly showed how the systematic targeting of critical voices was prevalent everywhere.
“When those in power are not even held accountable, students like ours who are only echoing the public’s sentiments are those who are handcuffed and silenced. This proves how much worse the national situation would be if the Terror Bill is enacted into law, inevitably causing the surge of human rights violations,” it said in a statement.
It also urged the safe and immediate release of the 7 protesters.
“Their safe and peaceful gathering amid a pandemic shows the desperation of the masses to protect our Constitutional rights. UP and the youth are known to stick to our mandate to serve the broader masses and it is a duty to be fulfilled,” it said.
The office also pointed out a 1989 agreement between UP and the Department of National Defense prohibiting entry of the military inside the university’s campus without proper coordination with the UP police and the school administration. It was reported that police officers were caught on video chasing protesters inside the UP Cebu campus.
CEGP called the arrest “unjust” and what the government was doing now involved use of “militaristic approach instead of heeding the people's demands”
Outraged by the arrest, netizens also called for the protesters’ immediate release. Filipinos on social media criticized the police action, saying the cops were quick to arrest those in mass mobilizations but continued to be tolerant to their political allies.
“The police were so quick to arrest those who were peacefully protesting outside UP Cebu but turned a blind eye on Sinas who violated ECQ guidelines through organizing a birthday party with 50 visitors who were not following proper social distancing protocols,” Cat Melendres writes on Twitter.
Melendres was referring to Metro Manila police chief Major General Debold Sinas, who faces criminal raps for violating community quarantine rules when he and a number of other cops held a party for his birthday on May 8 but President Rodrigo sided with him.
Netizens also expressed worry that even before the anti-terrorism bill becomes a law, government has already abused its power to silence dissent. (READ: 'This is not terrorism': Filipinos take to the streets after anti-terror bill hurdles Congress)
“Hindi pa naipapasa yung batas ganito na nangyayare, paano na kaya kung tuluyang maapprove yan? mawawalan na talaga ng malayang pamamahayag ng saloobin ang mga Pilipino,” @mendozachie_ tweeted.
(The anti-terrorism bill isn’t a law yet but look at what’s happening. What would happen if it gets approved? Filipinos will lose their freedom of speech and expression.)
The anti-terrorism bill, which was passed by Congress earlier this week, sparked outrage among groups and concerned citizens who noted that this would institutionalize President Rodrigo Duterte’s abuse of power.
“The Cebu 7 were arrested with no charges. Their phones were confiscated for contacting legal professionals. It is their right to contact lawyers. It is very clear who are the true terrorists here – the Philippine state forces,” netizen Jecon Dreisbach said in a mix of English and Filipino on Twitter.
Here are other tweets from netizens:#ReleaseCebu7 - Curated tweets by MovePH