(UPDATED June 27, 2020; 10:33 p.m.) Filipino online users on Friday launched the hashtag #FreePride20 to call for the release of some of the Pride march protesters who were arrested and detained in Manila.
On Friday morning, authorities nabbed at least 20 individuals who joined the Pride March protest without a warrant and brought them the Manila Police District headquarters along U.N. Avenue.
The police, however, did not file any charges against the detainees following the arrest.
In time for the Pride month, some members of rights groups Bahaghari, Gabriela Philippines and Karapatan held a smaller version of the massive Metro Manila Pride March 2020 in Mendiola, Manila.
They expressed their dissent against the passage of the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which legal experts and groups fear to contain unconstitutional provisions.
This bill was sent to President Rodrigo Duterte‘s desk last June 9 and it’s now up to him if he would sign it into law, veto it or allow it to lapse into law in a few days.
Meanwhile, posts from the groups and attendees showed that protesters complied with the Department of Health’s basic health protocols of wearing face masks and observing social distancing rules.
They also held the Pride march protest after the national government eased the lockdown restrictions and rules on mass gatherings in Metro Manila this month.
Protesters only have placards, but the PNP are in full battle gear.
The PNP arrested 20 individuals who participated the Pride Protest held by Bahaghari. They even harassed and threatened two BH members that they will shoot those who will 'manlalaban.'#FreePride20 pic.twitter.com/6VOiYU1dtR
— mayka #SaveLumadSchools (@maykamaykaba) June 26, 2020
Progressive media network Altermidya said the local police in anti-riot gear suddenly arrived at the event and dispersed them shortly after the Pride program started.
Ten members of Bahaghari, including its spokesperson Rey Valmores-Salinas, eight members of Gabriela and two drivers were taken in police patrol cars and brought to the station.
Cristina Palabay, secretary-general of human rights alliance Karapatan who was also among the attendees, later shared an update on Twitter saying that the police failed to inform the detainees of their violations.
“They were not informed of any charges when they were accosted. What a way to commemorate pride in the Philippines, PNP (Philippine National Police)!” Palabay wrote.
According to @Bahaghari_Natl, at least 10 queers,8 allies,2 drivers were arrested and brought to the Manila Police District Headquarters at the UN Ave. in Manila.They were not informed of any charges when they were accosted. What a way to commemorate pride in PH, PNP! pic.twitter.com/eMq1FD35W9
— Tinay Palabay (@TinayPalabay) June 26, 2020
The hashtag #FreePride20, which refers to the 20 participants, then topped the Philippines Trends on Twitter as the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) activists and advocates called for the detainees’ immediate release.
The Pride march or parade is a worldwide gathering held annually every June or Pride Month that celebrates the achievements of members of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies. The march is also being held to uphold their basic human rights to the society.
The Metro Manila Pride March and Festival 2020 was supposed to take place on June 27. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the organizers canceled the largest assembly of the LGBTQ+ community in the country and opted for an online gathering.
During the dispersal of Pride march protesters, GMA News shared a video clip showing an intern of Manila Today also being arrested by the local police. The intern was covering the Pride event.
Veteran reporter Raffy Tima retweeted this video and noted that there’s no law that prohibits taking pictures or videos in public places.
Tima also tagged the official Twitter of the PNP to question if there’s a new directive the public is not aware of.
And it keeps coming! Hindi po bawal kumuha ng litrato at video sa pampublikong lugar, media ka man o sibilyan! @pnppio may bago po bang directive, memo o batas na hindi namin alam? https://t.co/eanaacFint
— Raffy Tima (@raffytima) June 26, 2020
Jon Callueng, former national president of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines, also shared a “horrifying account” of an LGBTQIA member who was among the Pride20.
In a Twitter thread, Callueng narrated that three police officer forced a person named “Bidang” to drop on the ground and harassed her.
Horrifying account from a member of the LGBTQ+ arrested earlier:
'Bidang', a polysexual, was able to escape when the police started dispersing the Pride Protest even before the program started. She was however stopped by policemen 100 meters away from Mendiola Peace Arch. pic.twitter.com/p5AaVfiC3o
— Jon Callueng (@thejoncallueng) June 26, 2020
Bahaghari’s Salinas likewise took to Twitter to share photos of her and the policemen who arrested her.
“Hinuli man kami ngayon, walang pandemiya, walang lockdown, at mas lalong walang mga pasistang baboy ang makapipigil ng pagsinag ng Bahaghari,” she said.
— Rey Valmores-Salinas (@rosereyde) June 26, 2020
Condemnation vs supposed police terror
The progressive organizations involved, including the organizers of Metro Manila Pride, denounced the violent dispersal of an otherwise peaceful rally.
Metro Manila Pride reminded the public in its statement that the pride parade is inherently a call for reform or change in society.
“Ang Pride ay lagi’t laging mananatiling isang protesta at magpapatuloy sa pagsulong ng pagbabago para sa pantay na karapatan. Tuloy-tuloy ang mas maigting na panawagan ng komunidad para sa karapatang pantao, at para sa pagbabago: sa lipunan at kultura, at lehislatura,” it said.
Bahaghari shared that the military personnel informed the group that the protesters violated the Bayanihan To Heal as One Act that expired last June 25.
The Bayanihan Act does not have a provision that prohibits mass gatherings.
However, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque earlier said that mass gatherings must only have a maximum of 10 people under the regulations of the Inter-Agency Task Force for areas in general community quarantine.
Aside from the concerns on violations, the rights group also questioned the police’s priority amid the pandemic.
“Sa kalagitnaan ng kinakaharap nating krisis pangkalusugan, nakakapagtaka na pinagtutuunan ng pansin ng rehimeng ito ang pangha-harass at pagpapatahimik sa kalayaang magpahayag ng opinyon at saloobin sa pamamagitan ng pag-orkestra sa dahas ng pulis at military,” Bahaghari said.
Mariing tinututulan at kinukondena ng mga nagkakaisang miyembro ng Bahaghari ang naganap na marahas na pagbuwag at pagdakip sa hanay nang mapayapang mga nagpoprotesta sa Mendiola ngayong araw, Hunyo 26.
— Bahaghari #TayoAngLunas (@Bahaghari_Natl) June 26, 2020
Gabriela likewise emphasized the constitutional right to assembly and said that it is not suspended even during the pandemic.
“We insist that there is no law prohibiting public assemblies during the implementation of the community quarantine. The constitutional right to peaceful assembly is not suspended even amid a health emergency,” their statement read.
“We call on the Filipino people to press for the immediate release of all those arrested. Police officers must be held accountable for conducting the illegal arrests,” it added.
Condemn the police terror against Pride protesters in Manila! Pride is not a crime!Gabriela Women’s Party strongly…
Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray, a vocal ally of the LGBTQ+ community, took to Twitter to question the arrest of the detainees.
Is this the new normal? 💔 Earlier today a peaceful #PRIDE rally held in Manila where mask wearing participants practicing social distancing were met by police in riot gear and arrested.
— Catriona Gray (@catrionaelisa) June 26, 2020
“When questioned by the witnesses and media about the reason or violations for arrest, the police gave no response,” Gray said.
“If proper health guidelines were being followed, (social distancing, mask wearing) why the use of force? Why the withholding of rights (witnesses said they were not read their miranda rights before arrest nor given reason of arrest)? Videos circulating online confirm this,” the beauty queen also said.
She reiterated the need to speak up.
— Catriona Gray (@catrionaelisa) June 26, 2020
Captain Arnold Echalar, MPD General Assignment Section chief, told reporters that the rallyists will face complaints of illegal assembly, resistance, non-cooperation and disobedience to a person in authority.