MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Police arrested at least 20 people at the Pride March in Mendiola, Manila, on Friday, June 26.
Ten members of LGBTQ+ rights group Bahaghari, 8 from other progressive groups, and two drivers have been detained at the Manila Police District.
They were being charged with disobedience of person in authority in relation to Republic Act 11332, otherwise known as the Law on Reporting of Communicable Diseases, and Batas Pambansa 880, otherwise known as Public Assembly Act.
The protesters were observing physical distancing and other health protocols when the police arrived to disperse them.
The police did not cite any violations while arresting the protesters and only told them, “Nasa batas iyan na bawal iyan (It’s in the law that it’s prohibited),” without citing any specific law.
Prior to the the “grand mananita” themed indignation rally on Philippine Independence Day, June 12, human right lawyers had stressed that the Bayanihan To Heal As One Act as well as the public health law, Republic Act No. 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases Act, do not prohibit rallies.
At 10 am on Friday, the group marched from Morayta and held a program near the Mendiola Peace Arch to “resist [President Rodrigo] Duterte’s tyranny.”
The Bahaghari-led protest was held to celebrate Pride month and to oppose the anti-terrorism bill.
Bahaghari spokesperson Rey Valmores-Salinas argued, while being taken away, that they were just excercising their rights.
Salinas, who was among those arrested, said the program was peaceful.
“Hinuli man kami ngayon, walang pandemiya, walang lockdown, at mas lalong walang mga pasistang baboy ang makapipigil ng pagsinag ng Bahaghari (We may have been arrested now but no pandemic, lockdown, or facsist pigs could stop us from making Bahaghari shine),” Salinas, who was already onboard the police vehicle, added.
According to human rights group Karapatan, “queers have the right to protest, speak out, and to take action against a draconian terror law that will impact on citizens’ rights.”
“We call on PNP to #FreePride20! To all members of the LGBTQ community and our allies, your support is very important. Let us show them that Pride is not just about the colors that we wear, it is about our love, our solidarity for those who fight for our humanity,” said Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay.
A video posted by Karapatan paralegel officer Jon Callueng showed that the police also attempted to arrest an intern at independent news group Manila Today, who was mistaken as a protester.
This is not the first time for police to arrest protesters during the pandemic, even if they did not violate quarantine rules. (READ: Cops arrest 8 at anti-terrorism bill protest in Cebu City) – with reports from Kurt Adrian dela Peña and Daniel Asido/Rappler.com