Cops arrest 8 at anti-terrorism bill protest in Cebu City

Ryan Macasero
(UPDATED) 7 activists, including minors, belong to local progressive organizations in Cebu. The other person arrested is a bystander who did not participate in the rally

ARRESTED. Police drag two activists who joined an anti-terrorism bill protest in front of the gfate of University of the Philippines Cebu campus on June 5, 2020. Police say they violated the rule on mass gathering as Cebu City is under general community quarantine Photo by Gelo Litonjua/Rappler

CEBU CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) – Police arrested 8 people during a protest rally against the anti-terrorism bill on Friday, June 5.

Among those arrested were 7 activists and one bystander who did not participate in the rally

The activists were arrested at the protest site near the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu for violating a ban on mass gatherings under the general community quarantine (GCQ), according to Cebu City police.

The rally started peacefully at around 10 am until the protesters were met by Cebu City police in combat gear and members of the SWAT team. 

Police Lieutenant Colonel Melbert Esguerra, deputy director for administration of the Cebu City Police Office, told reporters that the protesters would be taken to the CCPO headquarters at Camp Sotero Cabahug pending the filing of complaints.

None of those detained have been charged as of this posting. 

Bayan Central Visayas confirmed that the 7 belonged to local progressive organizations in Cebu. They also said there were minors among those arrested. 

According to initial reports, among those arrested was Dyan Gumanao, a community organizer and a reporter for ANINAW Productions, a local affiliate of AlterMidya – People’s Alternative Media Network. 

Media were not allowed to see the detained activists at first when they went to the police office around 12 noon, but were later granted access to the detained activists.

Videos showed cops, some in plain clothes, entering the campus and chasing down students.

The video also showed campus security guards watching as activists were being chased in the open field area of the college. 

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Under the Soto-Enrile accord of 1982, the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are barred from entering any of the UP campuses without prior permission from the administration or unless they are in hot pursuit of a crime suspect. 

Brigadier General Albert Ferro, Central Visayas’ police director, denied cops violated the accord, saying the police were in hot pursuit of the activists.

Hot pursuit allows warrantless arrests for violation of “continuing crimes.”

Ferro said the detained individuals will be facing violations of least 3 charges:

  • Batas Pambansa 880, a Marcos-era law that requires a permit to rally
  • Violation of Cebu City’s GCQ as per Mayor Edgar Labella’s Executive Order No. 079
  • Republic Act 11332 Section 9(e), the law on reporting communicable diseases. They are being accused of violating the clause on “non-cooperation of the person or entities identified as having the notifiable disease, or affected by the health event of public concern.”

Ferro said the police did not have a problem with the detained individuals’ right to express, but he insisted gatherings increase the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

“They are basically endangering the people of Cebu because we are in a pandemic situation. Why would they protest? They are just exposing, if they have the disease, they are just spreading the disease to other people, so that’s why we are preventing it,” he said.

“We are not against the expression of the mass protest if it’s only in [a] normal situation. Now, it’s not normal,” he added.

The anti-terror bill, approved by the House of Representatives on Thursday and by the Senare months earlier, sparked outrage among human rights groups and concerned citizens, who noted that this law would hand too much power to President Rodrigo Duterte, who had been widely criticized for his human rights record. (READ: ‘Draconian’ anti-terror bill, feared to be used vs gov’t critics, hurdles Congress)

As of posting, at least 27 protesters were still stuck inside the campus while police were posted outside, on Gorordo Avenue. 

The College Editors Guild of the Philippines condemned the arrest of the activists. “Duterte’s police and military are using militaristic approach instead of heeding the people’s demands,” the CEGP said in a statement. 

UP Office of the Student Regent (UPOSR) also released a statement, urging police to release the detained protestors.  

“This clearly manifests how the systemic targeting of critical voices is prevalent everywhere,” UPOSR said. “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.” 

Those who leave campus may still be apprehended for quarantine violations. Cebu City is GCQ due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. – Rappler.com

Ryan Macasero

Ryan covers Cebu and the Visayas for Rappler. He covers all news in the region, but is particularly interested in people stories, development issues and local policy making.