Police arrest LGBTQ Pride marchers in the Philippines
When members of the LGBTQ community in the Philippines went on a Pride march in the capital of Manila, police forcefully confronted them and arrested 20 of their members.
Despite the fact that the marchers were practicing social distancing and wearing masks, the police challenged them. The marchers were also protesting the government’s Anti-Terror Bill.
The current Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has made many inflammatory remarks against women and gay people by cracking jokes about rape and sexual assault.
Philippines: Hotbed of protests
Police in riot gear opposed the protestors during their march and arrested 20 of them, dragging them from the street or their vehicles and into police vans.
Another policeman even took the key of a van carrying protestors and drove them to a police station. None of the police gave a reason to why they were being arrested.
Lawyer Jesus Falcis told VICE News that “the arrests were illegal because the police at that time could not cite a ground or law for their arrest.”
According to the Associated Press, Manila police spokesman Lt. Col. Carlo Manuel said the march lacked a permit and the protestors were arrested because they defied police orders by fleeing.
The Philippine government is facing criticism for pushing an anti-terror legislation that would reportedly target terrorists and communists even as the country is dealing with rising pandemic cases.
Critics warned that the measure’s vague wording would allow arrests even on the basis of suspicion.
Pride and protest in the Philippines
Protestors said the trouble began when one policeman grabbed a protestor from behind. However, the police claim it began when one protestor allegedly sprayed a liquid at an policeman.
“The arrests made it clear that the government isn’t there to protect us LGBTQIA+ people but rather there to take us down,” Tetsu Komatsuzaki, advocacy officer for Pioneer Filipino Transgender Men Movement, told VICE News.
Komatsuzaki added that, “This should be a significant reminder as to why Pride isn’t just mere celebration, but rather a protest. Pride has and always will be a protest.”
“Compared to other ASEAN countries, we have relatively more freedom when it comes to LGBT movements but this shows that state violence cuts across gender issues,” the Iloilo Pride Team told VICE News.
Immah Toledana, president of Benilde Hive, a LGBTQ student organization, warned that: “This could either be seen as a catalyst for the advocacy to be heard by more people, or it may instill more fear.”
The human rights group Karapatan said that the “arrests are not the first time that the police and other law enforcement officials attacked the LGBTQ+ community under the guise of enforcing lockdown measures.”
International group slams Philippine arrests
Bahaghari, the LGBT group leading the protest, said those arrested were placed in cramped jail cells without being tested for COVID-19. They were held for five days pending further investigation from the courts.
Ryan Thoreson, researcher for Human Rights Watch, pointed out that current Philippine laws “do not prohibit protests and rallies, and the protesters were following social distancing protocols and wearing masks.”
“The Pride arrests underscore why protesters are rightfully concerned about the Anti-Terrorism Act,” Thoreson said.
This measure, he added, 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.
“Cracking down on protests is an affront to the very notion of Pride,” he pointed out.
Bahaghari’s chairperson, Bernadette Neri, said, “Arrests at a Pride march are indicative of the current Philippine government, prioritizing its Anti-Terror bill over listening to its own citizens.”