Dr. Ma. Luisa Garcia, 46, and Rosita Labarez, 57, president and vice-president of the Controlled Economic Zone Federation, Inc. (Cezfed), were leading residents of Barangay Holy Spirit to protest the impending bidding of the 13-hectare residential area, in front of the Sandiganbayan, when they were arrested.
By DABET CASTANEDA
MANILA — The two protesters arrested just a few minutes before President Aquino delivered his State of the Nation Address yesterday, July 28, are beneficiaries of a housing project of the late President Cory Aquino.
Dr. Ma. Luisa Garcia, 46, and Rosita Labarez, 57, president and vice-president of the Controlled Economic Zone Federation, Inc. (Cezfed), led residents of Barangay Holy Spirit to protest the impending bidding of the 13-hectare residential area, which sits within the 23-hectare property of the National Government Center Housing Project (NGCHP). This area is right in front of the Sandiganbayan along Commonwealth Avenue where the presidential convoy passed by on its way to the House of Representatives for SONA 2014.
In an interview with Bulatlat.com inside the Camp Karingal police station in Quezon City, Garcia said they have just wrapped up a short protest program when QCPD Station 11 commander Superintendent Victor Pagulayan ordered her arrest. Meanwhile, Labarez said she was trying to protect Garcia from arrest when the police saw her and arrested her as well. “I was pulling her (Garcia); I did not want to leave her alone so I was also arrested,” Labarez told Bulatlat.com in Filipino.
— dabet panelo (@dabetpanelo) July 28, 2014
Lawyer Ephraim Cortez of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said Garcia and Labarez were arrested for violating BP880 (Batas Pambansa Bilang 880) or The Public Assembly Act of 1985. The law requires protesters to secure a written permit when conducting public assemblies in a public place. Cortez, however, said the protesters did not need a permit as the residents held their protest in front of their community.
The NGCHP is one of eight projects named by the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) as those that are in danger areas in Metro Manila, a report from gmanetwork.com last year said.
Garcia and Labarez were brought to Police Station 6 for questioning and were later brought to Station 10 in Kamuning for medico legal check up. The two were then brought to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit in Camp Karingal on the same day for booking. Both were released past 9 p.m. of the same day. No formal charges were filed.
Use of taser gun
Meanwhile, the police used a taser gun against a driver and her 12-year-old daughter, human rights group Karapatan reported.
Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, said policemen approached the jeepney of Rodel Torotola, which was parked near the Batasan Pambansa. The policemen asked for Torotola’s driver’s license and when the latter refused to turn it over, a policeman fired a taser gun on Torotola. Beside him was his 12-year-old daughter, who was also stunned.
Taser guns, a kind of a stun gun, are used to immobilize persons who pose threat to authorities.
Dr. Genevieve Rivera-Reyes, a member of the medico-legal team during the SONA protest, said there was no reason for the police to use the taser gun against Torotola and her daughter.
Palabay noted it was the first time that the group witnessed such overkill security measures.
Container vans, barbed wire, concrete barriers and thousands of policemen and soldiers blocked the protesters last Monday.
An official of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) who witnessed Monday’s protest condemned the police brutality against the protesters.
In a video report by Kodao Productions, lawyer Gilbert Boiser, CHR-National Capital Region head, said the hosing down of protesters constituted a human rights violation.
Boiser told the policemen in Filipino, “Relax. I thought you were supposed to be on super maximum tolerance.” Boiser said it was impossible for the protesters to pass through the several layers of blockade setup by police. (with reports from Ronalyn V. Olea/ Bulatlat.com)