Groups condemn arrest of youth activist on Independence Day

Francis Rafael of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Southern Tagalog. (Photo from Vincent Isles Facebook page)

“The state’s response to the call for genuine independence is further repression.”

By ARNETH ASIDDAO
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — Various groups slammed the arrest of a 20-year-old protester who joined a lighting rally during the Independence Day rites in Kawit, Cavite, Tuesday.

Francis Couichie Rafael of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Southern Tagalog was taken into police custody for supposedly causing disturbance after he shouted “Huwad na kalayaan” (Fake freedom) during President Rodrigo Duterte’s speech.

According to the police, Rafael violated Article 153 of the Revised Penal Code (tumults and other disturbance of public orders; tumultuous disturbance or interruption liable to cause disturbance).

Critics of the Duterte administration, however, turned the table around. “If there is someone who has caused a tumultuous disturbance of public order, it is the Duterte regime — the leading purveyor of deceit, corruption, roguery and terrorism,” said Jose Mari Callueng, president of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines.

Kabataan partylist also denounced the incident, calling it “repression and (one of the) attacks against the rallyists.”
“In arresting Couichie, Duterte has only proven that this regime has no intention to take steps in achieving genuine freedom. How ironic that a protester who has expressed genuine concern for pressing issues in society has been arrested, but the highest official in the land who kisses and curses anytime…is given a free pass,” Elago said.

No real democracy

Human rights group Karapatan tagged Rafael’s arrest as “part of the ongoing attempts to silence the voices of dissent in the Philippines.”

On June 8, an organizer from the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) in Ilo-ilo City, Ma. Theresa Cabales, was detained on charges of murder and rebellion.

“Basic rights and fundamental freedoms such as organizing of teachers and the exercise of the freedom of speech and of peaceful assembly are being criminalized,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general.

According to Palabay, nearly a thousand individuals, of which at least 503 are detained, face trumped-up criminal charges.
“There is no actual democracy in the country. The Filipino people fight for their democratic rights everyday to live: farmers struggle for land, workers struggle for a living wage, students fight for a genuine free education, and several more,” Callueng emphasized.

The people’s growing movement is a manifestation of their clamor for change which they have realized will not happen under a “fascist, tyrannical president,” according to Elago.

“The state’s response to the call for genuine independence is further repression. The state’s response to legitimate demands is a rising dictatorship. Justifiably, the people’s responses are a growing movement, wider alliances, and stronger, unified calls,” Elago emphasized. ()

*Video footage by Southern Tagalog Exposure.

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