Petition to drop all charges against low-level ECQ violators!
During the onset of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in mid-March 2020, problems concerning the survival of marginalized sectors, especially that of the urban poor, arose. With the loss of income for informal and no-work-no-pay workers, the lives of urban poor families struggling to sustain themselves during the COVID-19 crisis become more difficult as the ECQ is extended until May 15 still without guarantee that adequate social services and substantial medical interventions from the government will be urgently fulfilled.
The multiple arrests done in Sitio San Roque; Norzagaray, Bulacan; and other areas in Metro Manila further exacerbate the suffering of the marginalized communities while the promised government aid still remains scarce.
A TIMELINE OF ARRESTS AND THREATS
April 1 - Some residents of Sitio San Roque went out to EDSA after receiving false news that relief packages were being distributed. The situation escalated when the media came and the upset residents, desperate for aid, aired out their grievances. Soon after, police forces from the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) came and violently dispersed the crowd resulting in the arrest of 21 members of the community. They were swiftly charged with several cases and detained for several days in Camp Karingal and were released only after posting bail.
April 4 & 22 - Nineteen vegetable vendors were arrested and jailed by the QCPD for “illegal street vending” along Elliptical Road in Quezon City. A few weeks later, on April 22, five vegetable vendors were similarly apprehended along Roosevelt Ave. They were all eventually released after the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office decided to have their cases put under further investigation.
April 19 - Six volunteers from Sagip Kanayunan relief operations and former Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao were apprehended in a checkpoint on their way to distribute relief packs in a community in Norzagaray, Bulacan. They were arrested on the grounds of disobedience to a person in authority for not carrying a travel pass and were later charged with sedition attributing to what the PNP calls as “anti-government” documents included in their relief packs. They are all currently out on bail.
April 24 - the PNP Task Force Disiplina arrested around 50 Quezon City residents for allegedly violating ECQ protocols like not wearing any face mask or not carrying a quarantine pass. Among the arrested were sidewalk vendors, pedicab drivers, and a San Roque relief operations volunteer who happened to be picking-up donated vegetables along Agham Rd. They were later released five hours after being held under the Q.Ave flyover and were threatened that they will be charged and detained the next time they are seen violating the ECQ.
April 25 - An engineering student from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Rexon Aumentado, was arrested and detained at Santa Mesa, Manila for allegedly carrying a fake quarantine pass. He remains in jail as of writing despite appeals from his Barangay proving that his quarantine pass was genuine and valid.
April 27 - Four ununiformed policemen from QCPD Station 2 barged in the San Roque community center around 9pm where nine Save San Roque Alliance and Kadamay-San Roque relief operations volunteers were staying. After minutes of interrogation and after the policemen took photos of their IDs, they were threatened of being arrested and jailed the next time they are seen in the community without valid documents.
May 1 - Ten volunteers of Bayanihang Marikenya Marikenyo and Lingap Gabriela were arrested by the police while conducting a community feeding program in Marikina City. On the same day, 18 volunteers from Tulong Kabataan were also arrested while assisting in a relief community kitchen in Brgy. Central, Quezon City.
MASS TESTING NOT MASS ARRESTS!
Aside from these warrantless arrests and detention based on trumped up charges, intimidation and harassment still continue in Sitio San Roque and other communities. The police and military have taken advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ECQ to strengthen the Duterte’s administration’s goal of militarizing the entire country.
While the AFP-PNP are quick to draw arms and file questionable charges on citizens, the processing of the promised financial aid and relief from the national government remain slow and the people are still to have a genuine and free mass testing for all vulnerable sectors.
As of April 29, around 41,000 quarantine violators have been arrested by the PNP only in a span of one month and around 4,500 remain in jail.
With these legitimate cases and concerns, we hereby petition the government to:
(1)desist from arresting and release all detained low-level ECQ violators;
(2) drop all charges against all low-level ECQ offenders such as the San Roque 21, Sagip Kanayunan 7, and other ordinary citizens charged and detained for violating ECQ protocols.
(3) conduct an independent and impartial investigation on police abuses and human rights violations done during the enforcement of the ECQ;
(4) ensure that the people affected by the lockdown, especially the urban poor, are given prompt and adequate access to food, health, and other basic services in the duration of the lockdown.
We appeal on the basis that imprisoning & charging ordinary citizens, especially urban poor and volunteer relief workers, are contrary and disproportionate to the badly needed humanitarian measures in the current health and economic crisis, furthermore, counter-productive to health recommendations to maintain physical distancing and observe better personal hygiene, and legally ludicrous in the greater context of protecting the people amidst the pandemic.
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