Statement of support from Asia Pacific Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines
The Asia Pacific Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (APCHRP) vehemently condemns the violent arrest of twenty-one protesters in Sitio San Roque, Quezon City.
On the 1st of April, several residents of Quezon City demonstrated to desperately ask the government for food assistance. They were met with a brutal dispersal by members of the Philippine National Police (PNP), twenty-one protesters are still in their custody at present.
Not only was the crackdown brutal, as seen on video footage captured by those present, it was also unjust as these residents were merely exercising their right to demand accountability from their government.
The protest in Sitio San Roque was a cry for help by hungry residents from their elected government officials. They have been experiencing hardship under the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Rather than to violently disperse them, the city government of Quezon City or the national government should have instead listened to their cries for help and provided much-needed food assistance.
These San Roque protesters belong to the urban poor who are the most vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their livelihoods have been decimated by the ECQ and are demonstrating to hold the government accountable to their promise of relief assistance to them while under quarantine.
Elected public officials should expedite the distribution of their promised humanitarian packs, as many impoverished members of society are now languishing due to the restrictions imposed under the quarantine.
To instead be met with such a violent response shows the PNP’s flippant attitude towards the poor. Their motto claims “To serve and to protect”, but this is obviously not applicable to the indigent and the most vulnerable members of our society.
This is not the first instance of police savagery amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Individuals who violated quarantine rules in Laguna were heartlessly placed inside dog cages. A video footage also went viral where police officers can be seen punching a quarantine violator in Pangasinan.
The PNP justify their actions as necessary to enforce the strict quarantine guidelines, but when members of the ruling class violate these same rules – as in the case of Senator Koko Pimentel – they are treated with leniency and maximum tolerance.
To make matters worse, President Rodrigo Duterte has seemingly given them license to enact more brutality. In a recent press conference, he said that the police, military, and even barangay officials who encountered quarantine violators should just “shoot them dead”.
APCHRP expresses its outrage and indignation at the violent dispersal of the protest in Sitio San Roque and the worsening incidences of police violence. We call on the government to release the 21 protesters who still remain in the custody of the police.
We also urge the government to hold to account members of the PNP who perpetrate human rights abuses. The COVID-19 pandemic should not be used to sow terror over the public.
Free the San Roque 21! Stop police brutality!
Reference: Sister Patricia Fox, APCHRP Spokesperson, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo from Rappler.com