‘Arrest of GenSan teacher, son sets dangerous precedent’ – right group

“It has happened in Cebu and in General Santos City — it won’t be long before arresting critics for online posts becomes a national policy that could throw us back to the dark days of Marcosian martial rule.”

By EMILY VITAL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Human rights alliance Karapatan condemned the arrest and detention of a 55-year-old teacher and her son over charges of inciting to sedition and disobedience.

In a statement, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said the warrantless arrest of public school teacher Juliet Espinosa in General Santos City “sets a dangerous pretext for a crackdown on dissent amid the government’s continuing militarist response to the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.”

Espinosa, who used a different name on social media, allegedly published on Facebook a post urging people without food to proceed to Lagao Gym. Her son was arrested along with her for allegedly resisting his mother’s arrest and is being charged with disobedience to authority.

“The people have all the right to criticize the government’s incompetence and demand services. Teacher Juliet is not alone in her sentiments: the poor, street vendors, tricycle and jeepney drivers, the homeless, workers, and farmers are grumbling at this regime’s callousness to the people’s suffering while displaying its fascist ruthlessness to anyone who dares to speak up against its idiotic policies,” Palabay said.

Karapatan is alarmed that “the government is now testing the waters in going after online dissent, especially with the State’s emergency power to arbitrarily define and penalize ‘fake news.’”

“It has happened in Cebu and in General Santos City — it won’t be long before arresting critics for online posts becomes a national policy that could throw us back to the dark days of Marcosian martial rule,” Palabay said.

Last week, 24-year-old rapper Brandon Perang was made to apologize to Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia for posting negative comments on social media.

Act on legitimate demands

In a separate statement, ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro called for the immediate release of Espinosa and her son.

Castro said authorities should treat such online posts as urgent wake-up calls for them to fulfill their responsibility to provide food and basic necessities to constituents. “It is a cry for help, NOT a cry of sedition,” Castro said.

The teachers’ representative called on the national government and local government units to act on the people’s most urgent demands. She noted that there has been no unequivocal policy or commitment for sustained financial and material assistance especially for the elderly, sickly, and persons with disability.

“We believe that these are some of the urgent things that the national government must ensure. The national government MUST stop with the NCR-focused COVID response,” she further said.

Castro cautioned the General Santos local government against pursuing the charges against the two.

“Such actions at a time of a worsening pandemic will certainly be viewed as heartless on the part of the local government and police, and on the part of the national government which laid down the conditions for widespread uncertainty and hunger among the populace,” the legislator said. ()

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