(WM) A group of LGBT protesters in the Philippines who were arrested on June 26 have been released from police detention for further investigation, according to a tweet from the Filipino news outlet The Philippine Star.
On June 26, 20 protesters from the social activist groups Bahaghari and Metro Manila Pride, who were protesting the recent passage of an anti-terrorism bill, were arrested in Mendiola Street, Manila for allegedly violating quarantine guidelines and not having a rally permit. Human rights organization Karapatan said that 13 of these protesters were members of the LGBT community.
However, Bahagari issued a statement online saying that its members were in compliance with social distancing and other government health standards during the protest. A secretary from Karapatan also pointed out that protesters were not given an explanation for their arrest by police.
“They were not informed of any charges when they were accosted,” Secretary Cristina Palabay said.
The Commission on Human Rights in the Philippines, in responding to a similar incident, has said that the exigencies of the coronavirus pandemic do not “halt fundamental rights including freedom of peaceful assembly and activism.”
In a tweet on Tuesday, The Philippine Star confirmed that the protesters had been released from police custody pending further investigation.
The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is a piece of legislation that was passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate in the Philippines and is expected to be quickly enacted by President Rodrigo Duterte, according to human rights advocacy group Human Rights Watch.
The bill would allow Filipino authorities to “arrest people designate[d] as ‘terrorists’ without a judicial warrant and to detain them without charge for up to 24 days before they must be presented before a judicial authority.”
The bill also “makes it a criminal offense to ‘incite others’ to commit terrorism ‘by means of speeches, proclamations, writings, emblems, banners or other representations tending to the same end.'” While nonviolent advocacy work and humanitarian action are exempted from this definition, the Anti-Terrorism Council, an arbitrating group created by the bill’s passage, has sole discretion in determining who is classified as a terrorist threat.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, has called the legislation “a human rights disaster in the making” and warns that it could be used punitively against political dissidents.
“The law will open the door to arbitrary arrests and long prison sentences for people or representatives of organizations that have displeased the president,” Robertson said.