Twenty people were arrested at the LGBT Pride event in Manila last Friday June 26, an event that also protests against the anti-terrorism bill that threatens the rule of law in Philippines.
The police stated the reason of the arrest was due to their prohibited actions by law, without giving any further specifics and no allegations of violence.
The protesters were then charged under the following two laws:
The Law on Reporting of Communicable Diseases (2019)
The Public Assembly Act (1985)
According to Human Right Watch, Filipino human rights advocates have pointed out, these laws do not prohibit protests and rallies, and the protesters were following social distancing protocols and wearing masks.
Protesters at the Pride event were worried that the Anti-Terrorism Act will jeopardizes the right to a peaceful protest in future, as the act allows police to arrest those who appeared to be against the government without a court warrant and detain them without any charges for up to 24 days.
Let’s look back at the first ever pride parade in 1969, the famous “Stonewall Riots” was led by a group of LGBT people in New York who decided to fight back against the police brutality and raids within the community. Since then, activists have used marches during Pride Month to speak-up about the inequality matters within our society.
As seen in many places such as Hong Kong, United States and now Philippines, government have been using the pandemic as a way to suppress the crowd from expressing their views on equality and freedoms, peaceful assemblies and gatherings.
“Human Rights Watch has strongly condemned the misuse of public health restrictions as a pretense for rights violations in Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central Asia, Egypt, Hungary, Jordan, Thailand, and elsewhere.”
Government must stop using Covid-19 restrictions to quash dissent to uphold freedom of speech and reaffirm the fundamental right to a peaceful protest under the human rights by UN.