By Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA)
March 19, 2008
We condemn the violent dispersal of protesters at the Mansion yesterday, March 18, 2008, in the afternoon by members of the Philippine National Police Regional Mobile Group (PNP-RMG) headed by the Ground Commander Col. Ernesto Gaab. Five of the sixty protesters were arrested and several were hurt during the scuffle that ensued immediately after the protesters peacefully massed up at the gate. The protest was staged at the time of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s arrival at the Mansion from the Philippine Military Academy graduation rites. It was led by the Tongtongan ti Umili-Cordillera Peoples Alliance, Anakbayan, and the League of Filipino Students (LFS). The protest called for Arroyo’s ouster due to her anti-people policies, corruption issues surrounding her administration, and the government’s human rights violations.
Arrested were Imelda Tabiando, Deputy Secretary General of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA), John Silverio Saligbon – current Councilor and incoming Chair of the University of the Philippines Baguio Student Council, John Voltaire Dalangin, and Eddie Mancilla, Keidy Transfiguracion – respective spokesperson and members of Anakbayan. Most of the victims were handcuffed and manhandled. They were loaded in a van of the Philippine National Police Special Weapons and Tactics of the (PNP – SWAT). They were brought to the Police Substation 3 in Pacdal, Baguio City and were released after an hour. No charges were filed against them. Lawyers from the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) coming from Dinteg Cordillera Indigenous Peoples Legal Center, the Molintas and Cortes law offices assisted the arrested individuals.
Among the wounded were Anjo Rey Cerdena, Chairperson of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines – (CEGP-Baguio Benguet), Gabriel Longog of the Progressive Igorots for Social Action (PIGSA), and John Silverio Saligbon who were brought to the Baguio General Hospital (BGH) after the incident.
Imelda Tabiando’s bag was held and searched by elements of the PNP’s Regional Intelligence Office. It was given back three hours after their release.
The violent dispersal is a depiction of the government’s narrowing recognition of the democratic space in Philippine society.
The activity yesterday showed that GMA will be continued to be hounded by protests anywhere she goes.
We will further strengthen our ranks to join the national call for GMA’s ouster especially during this time of grave economic and political crisis.#