The Quezon City police arrested 20 residents of the village of San Roque today for allegedly protesting without a government permit.
The protestors, composed of 14 men and six women, were nabbed at around 11am on EDSA where they congregated to demand food from the local government, reports CNN Philippines. The residents, members of the organization Samahan ng Magkakapitbahay (“Organization of Neighbors”), said that they have not received any help from the government since the Luzon lockdown was implemented, which left many Filipinos unemployed. The lockdown was put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Lt. Col. Rodrigo Soriano of the Quezon City Police District told The Philippine Daily Inquirer that the residents were asking for help from their village captain and city Mayor Joy Belmonte.
“[They were protesting because] of food. They have not received anything from the village captain and the mayor,” he said.
Radio station DZMM reports that the police told the protestors to go back to their homes, but they refused to leave, which led to their arrest.
Mga taga-Sitio San Roque, Brgy. Bagong Pag-asa, QC, lumabas sa EDSA para manghingi ng tulong na pagkain sa lokal na pamahalaan.
— DZMM TeleRadyo (@DZMMTeleRadyo) April 1, 2020
Videos of the arrest quickly spread on Twitter, and the hashtags “Joy Belmonte” and “Sitio San Roque” went trending. Many netizens blamed Belmonte for what happened, such as @gnnrivera, who wrote, “This (sic) QC residents are begging for help, risking their lives to get foods but they got arrested? I guess, this wouldn’t happen if Mayor Joy Belmonte is DOING her JOB.”
This QC residents are begging for help, risking their lives to get foods but they got arrested ? I guess, this wouldn’t happen if Mayor Joy Belmonte is DOING her JOB. https://t.co/7Ami0s10i7
— 게안 (@gnnrivera) April 1, 2020
Activist group Gabriela Women’s Party condemned the dispersal in its statement on Facebook today.
“State forces are pushing poor families into a more difficult situation for continuing the mass arrests while urgent economic relief and mass COVID-19 testing remain to be seen,” the group said. “How can they remain still and silent when they have been hungry for days? What they need is aid and not imprisonment.”
“We demand their immediate release as hauling more persons into our cramped prisons will heighten the risk of contagion in our jail facilities,” Gabriela added.