As San Roque 21 posted bail, Karapatan calls on government to stop the arrests, attacks vs individuals, communities seeking aid

Today, as the “San Roque 21” posted bail on the trumped-up charges filed against them at the Metropolitan Trial Court of Quezon City, human rights group Karapatan reiterated its urgent call for the government the legitimate plea of poor Filipinos for adequate food and economic aid, amid the imposition of the “enhanced community quarantine” in Metro Manila and the entire island of Luzon.

Last week, April 2, at least 21 residents of Sitio San Roque in Quezon City were violently arrested after seeking food aid. They are presently facing five separate trumped-up charges and bail is fixed at PHP 3,000 per count, with a total bail of at least PHP 15,000 each of the accused individuals.

"We welcome the release of San Roque 21 who were wrongfully accused by authorities of violating several government orders. It is commendable that as they posted bail today, their just pleas are supported by various individuals who believe that arrests shouldn’t be the norm in a situation where the poor are merely asserting rights and government duty and accountability to its people," said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Secretary General.

The Karapatan official said it is truly lamentable that instead of addressing the needs of its people, the government responded with unrelenting violence: "The people of Sitio San Roque can never be blamed for leaving their homes to ask for help. Three weeks into the implementation of the lockdown, the residents had to look for the assistance promised to them by the government."

With most residents working as construction and factory workers, the daily wage earners of Sitio San Roque lost their means of income because of the enforcement of the lockdown. In a report, the community counts about 6,000 families, with some 80% earning below minimum wage.

"The poor were asked to stay at home and they heeded the call, hoping that the government will provide their needs. But after weeks of waiting for the government’s aid, nothing enough was able to reach their homes. Contrary to the government’s claims that their actions were instigated for self-serving interests and that they disobeyed the directives by deciding to cause trouble along the streets, the residents of Sitio San Roque and several poor communities suffered from unbearable hunger and it is the sole reason why they have decided to leave their homes to ask for help," she said.

Palabay asked: “Why is the government fond of silencing those who demand for actions beneficial to many? If Filipinos would ask for food, the government should provide. What is happening now is truly outrageous – the government seems to be so deaf of the clamors of the people by letting ordinary Filipinos die of violence and neglect." 

"Today is not the end of the fight of the San Roque 21. The baseless charges against them should be dropped. The attacks against the poor should cease. What we need now are real solutions that will be felt on the ground and pave the way for the delivery of social services and government relief to the most vulnerable, amid the COVID-19 pandemic," Palabay concluded.