Instead of addressing mass poverty and hunger on Labor Day, Duterte unleashes mass arrests and fascism

Human rights group Karapatan assailed the “brutality and sheer lack of compassion” of the Duterte administration as it enforced a “policy of mass arrests and fascism instead of addressing mass hunger and the grossly inadequate government response on International Workers’ Day.”

Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said at least 76 individuals — a daughter of a slain aid worker, relief workers, a priest, a lawyer, human rights workers and women’s rights advocates, seven alternative media workers, student leaders among them — were illegally arrested yesterday all over the country. “These arrests unveil in full the anti-worker and anti-poor character of this regime that serves not the people but only its militarist and anti-people interests and agenda,” she stated.

“Workers and the poor are bearing the brunt of the government’s militarized lockdown due to the loss of their livelihoods and lack of adequate socioeconomic aid. Instead of heeding the urgent demands of the marginalized, the Duterte government and its minions in the military and the police are instead exploiting quarantine measures to harass, vilify, and rabidly arrest — even kill — activists, especially those conducting relief operations in communities hard-hit by the crisis,” Palabay continued.

About 42 activists were arrested in Jaro, Iloilo City hours after negotiating with policemen to allow them to light candles and hold an indignation caravan to condemn and demand justice for the murder of Bayan Muna – Iloilo City Coordinator Jose Reynaldo “Jory” Porquia, who was harassed by the police for conducting relief operations in urban poor communities. Among the 42 arrested include Jory Porquia’s daughter, Krisma Niña, Iglesia Filipina Independiente priest Marco Sulayao, human rights lawyer Angelo Karlo Guillen, human rights workers Jose Ely Garachico and Alma Sumague, and seven media workers from Panay Today, Sine Panaysayon, and Dampig Katarungan. 

Meanwhile, police also arrested 10 women’s rights advocates, teachers, and relief volunteers from Cure COVID and Bayanihang Marikenyo’t Marikenya who were organizing their community kitchen in Olandes, Brgy. Industrial Valley Complex in Marikina City. Last night, despite orders of Marikina City Mayor Marcelino Teodoro to release the relief volunteers, the police led by National Capital Region Police Office Chief Debold Sinas are refusing to release them. As of 10 a.m. today, May 2, they were released upon further investigation of the case.

Around 14 residents of Brgy. Central, Quezon City and 4 volunteers from youth relief initiative Tulong Kabataan were also arrested after organizing a community kitchen for poor residents in the area. Two transport workers were also arrested in Brgy. San Isidro, Rodriguez, Rizal for merely holding placards. Four urban poor residents of Brgy. Paso de Blas, Valenzuela City were brought to the police station; the police said photos of their protests were seen on Facebook.

Meanwhile, teachers from the ACT for People’s Health experienced harassment yesterday morning, just as they were scheduled to distribute food packs and face masks to workers in establishments along Visayas Avenue in Quezon City. On the afternoon of April 30, 16 workers from Coca-Cola in Sta. Rosa, Laguna were also taken by elements of the Police Regional Office - 4A and the Philippine Army's 202nd Brigade; yesterday, they were paraded to the media as “rebel surrenderees.”

The Karapatan official averred that “contrary to the president’s faux pledge to ‘reaffirm the government’s commitment to uphold the dignity of labor,’ these mass arrests, fake surrenders, and harassment of relief volunteers on Labor Day show the lengths this regime is willing to go to harass and threaten activists. It simply wants the poor to rot away in hunger; they cannot claim to uphold the dignity of labor when this fascist regime has been so eager to please the interests of big businesses and its bloodthirsty militarist lapdogs at the expense of people’s rights and welfare.”

“Instead of responding to the socioeconomic needs of the people, these mass arrests will only worsen the plight of the poor. ‘Yung tumutulong, ikinukulong. ‘Yung mga opisyal na lumalabag sa batas, binibigyan ng special treatment. In the face of State violence and repression and Duterte’s blatantly anti-poor and anti-worker regime, these arrests should make everyone realize that it is but just and it is but right to speak out and act for our people’s rights and wellbeing,” she ended.