- The march in Manila was to celebrate Pride and to protest the Philippines new anti-terrorism bill.
Police in Manila arrested 20 peaceful LGBT+ protestors attending an LGBT+ Pride event and protesting the country’s new anti-terrorism bill.
Officers later charged the 20 under the Law on Reporting of Communicable Diseases and the Public Assembly Act.
However Filipino human rights advocates point out these laws do not prohibit protests and rallies. Moreover, the protestors were following social distancing guidelines and wearing masks.
Speaking at the Mendiola Peace Arch, a local landmark, they said they were resisting ‘[President Rodrigo] Duterte’s tyranny’.
The LGBT+ group Bahaghari (‘Rainbow’) had organized the protest on Friday (26 June).
In response, the police arrested 10 members of Bahaghari, eight from other groups, and two drivers.
However, at the time of the arrests, officers didn’t explain why they were detaining the protestors. They simply said (translated): ‘It’s in the law that it’s prohibited.’
Despite this, the protestors remained defiant.
Speaking from the police vehicle Bahaghari spokesperson Rey Valmores-Salinas said (translated):
‘We may have been arrested now but no pandemic, lockdown, or facsist pigs could stop us from making Bahaghari shine.’
Philippine abuse of COVID-19 rules
A video showed the police also attempted to arrest an intern from independent news group Manila Today. It appears they mistakenly thought was a protester.
Police eventually released the 20 from the cell at the Manila Police District in United Nations Avenue yesterday. However, they said the investigations will continue.
Now campaigners are demanding they drop all charges.
Cristina Palabay, secretary general of human rights group Karapatan, said:
‘To all members of the LGBTQ community and our allies, your support is very important. Let us show them that Pride is not just about the colors that we wear, it is about our love, our solidarity for those who fight for our humanity.’
It’s not the first time authorities in the Philippines have used coronavirus rules to harass protestors or LGBT+ people.
Earlier this year, GSN reported that local officials had made LGBT+ people dance and kiss as a punishment for breaking curfew.
Indeed, Filipino campaigners were among those to call on the UN to ‘counter COVID-19 related hate speech and violence against LGBTI community’ in May.
Human Rights Watch says: ‘The Pride arrests underscore why protesters are rightfully concerned about the Anti-Terrorism Act.
‘[It] would make it much easier for police to arrest critics of the government without a court warrant and detain them without charge for up to 24 days.
‘President Rodrigo Duterte should not sign the Anti-Terrorism Act, and lawmakers should go back to the drawing board and ensure any future counterterrorism legislation protects the right to peaceful protest.’