CEBU CITY, Philippines – Holding up signages to push for the approval of the anti-terrorism bill, supporters were allowed by the police to hold an indignation rally in downtown Cebu on Friday, June 12.
None of them were detained by the cops, unlike the 8 individuals arrested in the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu a week ago for protesting against the passage of the anti-terror bill.
Those 8 were charged for unlawful assembly, disobedience and violating Republic Act 11332 or Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act. They were released after 36 hours in detention. (READ: Cops arrest 8 at anti-terrorism bill protest in Cebu City)
In that UP Cebu demonstration, police in anti-riot gear were seen on video manhandling protesters who were maintaining social distancing and assembling in front of university campus.
But in the rally Friday of the supporters of the anti-terrorism bill, only a few policemen were deployed at the site.
Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) officer-in-charge Cydric Tamayo said that any demonstration – regardless of it being critical or in support of a government policy – must have a permit in order to rally and observe proper health standards since Cebu is still under general community quarantine.
It clarified with reporters that police personnel would not immediately assume individuals as protesters. The police, the CCPO said, kept a record of identified groups who attend rallies both in support and against the bill.
“Groups exceeding 10 persons would be in violation [of GCQ guidelines]. What if one of their members had COVID? We cannot say that they are COVID-19 free,” Tamayo added.
He also said that the anti-terror bill supporters who gathered in downtown Cebu were then told to disperse after a few minutes by the policemen. The UP Cebu protesters last June 5 however, were threatened with arrests by the police even before they started their rally.
Groups in opposition
Aside from the supporters showing favor for the anti-terrorism bill on Independence Day, protesters opposing the anti-terrorism bill also staged a protest.
At around 8 am, police in riot uniforms were stationed near the waiting shed of the UP Cebu in anticipation of the protests scheduled for Independence day.
This prompted Youth Act Now Against Tyranny Cebu (YANAT Cebu) and Movement against Tyranny Cebu (MAT Cebu) to hold their protest at the corner of Escario Street and Gorordo Avenue, a few blocks away from UP Cebu to continue their call to junk the anti-terrorism bill.
In a statement, Bayan Central Visayas spokesperson Jaime Paglinawan pointed out the double standard of the police in treating protesters.
“If the supporters of the anti-terrorism bill can freely hold a rally without threat or fear of violent dispersal or arrest, then the dissenters should also be extended the same courtesy,” Paglinawan said.
All UP Academic Employees’ Union President and MAT Cebu convenor Regletto Imbong echoed this.
“It is ironic that the police are decked in riot gear for our protest on the Philippines’ 122nd Independence Day,” said Regletto Imbong, president of the All UP Academic Employees’ Union and convenor of MAT Cebu.
The group said that the government should focus on proactive health solutions to the current COVID-19 pandemic instead of railroading anti-people legislations like the anti-terrorism bill.
Protests against the anti-terrorism bill were also simultaneously held nationwide. (READ: Fearful but defiant: Independence Day rallies push through despite warnings)
Despite the public clamor to #JunkTerrorBill and the number of requests urging lawmakers to change their votes, Congress submitted the enrolled copy of the bill to Malacañang. It now awaits the signature of the President for it to become a law. – Rappler.com