A group of residents from Sitio San Roque in Barangay Bagong Pag-Asa in Quezon City were arrested by police after they staged a rally to protest that they have not received any form of aid from the local government since the enhanced community quarantine was imposed three weeks ago.
Police arrested 21 persons after holding a protest action on EDSA, a stone’s throw away from Ayala Vertis Mall, at around 10:15 a.m. yesterday.
After they failed to heed requests to break up their line, law enforcers arrested them for violating provisions of the quarantine and for resistance and disobedience for a person of authority.
However, in a statement issued by the the Quezon City government, Mayor Joy Belmonte appealed to the leadership of QC Police District to release the rallyists.
“The mayor… appeals to the leadership of the QCPD to release the detainees in the interim for humanitarian reasons, with a warning that following the President’s directive that using a crisis situation to incite chaos, anarchy, panic, confusion and sedition is punishable by law under the Revised Penal Code and the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.”
The QC local government denied the allegations of the rallyists, claiming efforts to distribute food aid to residents have been ongoing.
“First, the local government and Barangay Bagong Pag-Asa categorically deny claims that no food pack has been distributed in the area. In fact, there is a continuous distribution of food packs in the area, both from the local government and the barangay to ensure that affected families receive food packs,” it said.
Meanwhile, two members of the Makabayan bloc condemned the arrests and called for the immediate release of those arrested and the dropping of charges against them.
Many of the residents appealed to Belmonte for help since they have been starving since the quarantine started.
A rallyist said, “The community quarantine is about to end soon but we have not received even a kilo of rice. We have not seen anyone not even our barangay captain. We even supported Mayor Joy Belmonte. If anyone is hearing our call, have mercy on us.”
Another rallyist stated they would not go out to EDSA if they had no reason, stating, “Those who have money were able to go panic-buying. All we can do is panic because we have nothing to eat.”
Based on an investigation by Task Force Disiplina, led by action officer Rannie Ludovica, of residents who showed up on North Edsa, they said that they were allegedly informed by someone from the group Kadamay that a TV crew was distributing food packs along EDSA or that personnel of the Department of Social Welfare and Development were distributing cash.
After they reached the area and discovered there was no food or cash distribution, “They were allegedly instigated by Kadamay to hold a rally and claim that the local government has not distributed any food packs in their area. Upon further investigation, however, some residents acknowledged that they did receive food packs,” the local government explained.
However, Kadamay has denied being involved in the incident.
Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas said using excessive force and detention will not quell the empty stomachs of Filipinos who have yet to receive aid from the government.
“State forces are pushing poor families into a more difficult situation for continuing the mass arrests while urgent economic relief and mass COVID-19 testing remain to be seen,” Brosas said.
Assistant Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro likewise condemned the supposed violent dispersal and arrest of residents who were appealing for food packs from the government.
“It is not a crime to demand for aid from the government during this crisis,” Castro said.
“Many communities like San Roque have yet to receive food packs and other social amelioration measures from the government which prompted them to protest and demand for their rights,” she added.
with Keith Calayag