MANILA—Cebu Mayor Edgar Labella on Saturday said the arrest of 8 people protesting the new anti-terror bill ran contrary to what his city, a “bastion of civil liberties,” stood far.
“Freedom of expression should not be curtailed,” Labella said in a statement.
“On the contrary, we should seek to promote and protect it. It is the noblest in the hierarchy of all freedoms.
“No less than our President (Rodrigo Duterte) has declared repeatedly that he encourages our people to say their piece especially on the matters that involve public interest.”
Seven protesters and a bystander have been detained because, police alleged, they broke quarantine rules during a rally on Friday opposing the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 in front of the University of the Philippines-Cebu.
Those held were Bern Cañedo of Youth Act Now Against Tyranny Cebu; Dyan Gumanao of Kabataan Partylist; Al Ingking, a former student of UP Cebu;
Jaime Paglinawan of Baong Alyansang Makabayan in Central Visayas; Joahanna Veloso of the National Union of Students of the Philippines; and Nar Porlas and Janry Ubal from Food Not Bombs Cebu.
A bystander, identified as Clement Corominas, was also arrested.
They were charged with unlawful assembly, disobedience and violating Republic Act 11332 or Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act.
Central Visayas police chief Brig. Gen. Albert Ignatius Ferro said the accused broke quarantine protocols imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Labella said the right to peaceful assembly is “not proscribed” under the current national emergency, but only subject to COVID-19 policies, such as physical distancing.
He said the arresting officers “may have noticed something wrong” in the protests that led to the arrests
“There are always two sides of every story, thus I cannot speculate. Let the appropriate agencies of government conduct their investigation so that the unfettered truth will come out,” Labella said, calling on the public to “stay calm.”
Support to bail out the protesters have poured in as several lawmakers condemned the arrest.
The new anti-terror bill, which seeks to provide increased powers to government forces against suspected terrorists, was approved by the House of Representatives on Wednesday. The Senate passed a similar measure in February.
Critics have raised concerns on the proposed law due to its supposed vague and dangerous provisions such as prolonged detention without charge and designating any person or group as terrorists. — With a report from Annie Perez, ABS-CBN News