MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Some 21 Quezon City residents were arrested by cops from the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) on Wednesday, April 1, after staging a protest to demand help amid the government’s lockdown that attempts to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus but has disenfranchised millions of Filipinos.
According to a press release from the QCPD, cops apprehended around 21 people along EDSA Kilyawan in Barangay Bagong Pagasa, Quezon City for protesting without a permit.
“Before they were arrested, we tried to negotiate with them for them to go home, but they insisted, so we had no choice but to implement the law,” said QCPD chief Brigadier General Ronnie Montejo.
Were all protesting? Most, if not all, of the residents lived in Sitio San Roque, a community mostly populated by low-wage earners like factory and construction workers, who could not work amid the lockdown.
So far, there are conflicting accounts as to whether all the arrested persons did take part in the protest, or were just looking for food.
In an interview sent to Rappler by the Save San Roque Alliance, Bernadeth Caboboy, one of the San Roque residents on the scene during the confrontation, said that they came to the area after they received information that help would be given out to them in connection with the lockdown.
And then the cops came, she said.
“Dumating yung mga naka-uniporme, pinagpapalo ang mga lalake…Wala silang awa (The men in uniform arrived. They hit the men. They have no pity),” Caboboy said.
One of the arrested men was Caboboy’s partner Ereberth Galagate, a construction worker who has not even received his 13th month pay for 2019.
Police identified a certain Jocy Lopez of the Samahan Ng Magkakapitbahay ng Barangay San Roque (SAMANA) as the leader of the people seen protesting.
Arrests condemned. The arrests were condemned by labor group Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP).
“Fact is, these households already belonged to the poor and near-poor economic brackets even before the COVID-19 outbreak; the administration of President Duterte should have placed these communities on the top of their priorities and should [have] heavily considered their plight when they decided to implement the ECQ,” the BMP said.
It added: “To arrest hungry and desperate people is a new low for this administration. Not only did they dilly-dally in addressing the crisis in late February, [but] the government treated the health crisis as a peace and order issue and deployed security forces instead of medical practitioners.”
The arrests come as the government still struggles to enforce a lockdown or "enhanced community quarantine" to keep people inside amid the outbreak of the highly infectious coronavirus disease (COVID-19), but many have pointed out that the lockdown can only be effective if the government delivers social relief for disenfranchised Filipinos. – Rappler.com
Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.