At least seven students of the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu were arrested today inside campus grounds by members of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team and Cebu police during a peaceful protest against the anti-terrorism bill.
Tug-Ani, UP-Cebu’s student publication posted a video of protesters fleeing the scene sometime past noon after cops clad in body shields and riot gear attempted to chase the protesters, supposedly searching them for quarantine passes.
— Tug-ani (@upcebutugani) June 5, 2020
They also posted a photo of two trucks that pulled up near the campus vicinity, one bearing the SWAT emblem, and another carrying several police officers.
According to a source at the site, the armed forces are asking the protest attendees for permit and quarantine passes. #JunkTerrorBill
— Tug-ani (@upcebutugani) June 5, 2020
One video posted by the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) Cebu shows activist Dyan Gumanao of the Kabataan party list screaming and visibly resisting arrest while she’s being hauled into a truck.
— CEGP Cebu (@CEGPCebu) June 5, 2020
Lt. Col. Melbert Esguerra, deputy director for administration of the Cebu City Police told reporters that the students had violated the ban on mass gatherings under the city’s general community quarantine.
Esguerra said they gave the protesters “10 minutes to disperse, but they did not heed our call. Hence, we decided to arrest them.”
The protesters were reportedly forced to board police patrol cars and were brought to the city’s police office headquarters for detainment, though none have been charged as of posting.
The College Editors Guild of the Philippines has condemned the “vicious” arrests, and apart from Gumanao, identified the detained activists as Jaime Paglinawan of BAYAN CenVis, Johanna Veloso of the National Union of Students in the Philippines, Nar Porlas of Anakbayan UP Cebu, UP alum Al Ingking, Bern Cañedo of YANAT Cebu, and Janry Ubal from Food Not Bombs Cebu.
CEGP also pointed out that police and armed forces are barred from entering campus premises under the Soto-Enrile agreement.
“Policemen, and non-uniformed personnel, also entered the UP Cebu premises and aided in further harassment of the peaceful rallyists. However, they did so in violation of the 1997 DND [Department of National Defense] agreement (also known as the Soto-Enrile Accords) which prohibits the armed forces and the police from entering any UP campus, especially if for the purpose of arresting dissidents and critics of the government,” the guild said in a statement.
“[S]cores of police in full uniform carrying dispersal equipment and high-powered arms suddenly materialized on the scene and started harassing the protesters, who have only been wielding placards and exercising their protests peacefully,” the CEGP alleged.
“We are fully enraged by the violation of the police of our rights to speak out against such an abomination of a bill that will only enable the fascist state to carry out their agenda without further resistance.”
The Commission on Human Rights in Central Visayas (CHR-7), meanwhile told Cebu Daily News that they will investigate the allegations of police abuse.
“We have sent a team to investigate the incident. We still cannot confirm anything as of now because we need more details, but we have prepared lawyers to assist should the arrested individuals request them,” CHR-7 Director Arvin Odron said.
Online, outrage over the arrests have quickly prompted the use of the tag #junkterrorbillnow, along with #ReleaseCebu7.
With people like @slyngsue pointing out that this is no time to be complacent.
“There, they’re doing it out in the open, and you’re still neutral? Apolitical?…Sorry sis, but in these trying times, that’s not valid. Open you’re goddamn eyes!”
Ayan na, lantaran na oh, and you're still neutral??? Apolitical??? Apathetical??? sorry sis, but in this crying times, di na valid, open ur gaddamn eyes! #JUNKTERROBILLNOW #ReleaseCebu7 pic.twitter.com/kNPGpgF8pK
— hannasue (@slyngsue) June 5, 2020
@iamraoulManuel questioned which of the two groups committed alleged violations of physical distancing, based on these photos.
— Raoul Manuel / Kabataan (@iamRaoulManuel) June 5, 2020
Under section 25 of the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, also known as the controversial anti-terror bill, the government will have an Anti-Terror Council composed of top cabinet officials, which can designate any individual, group of persons, or organization as terrorists if they find “probable cause.”