We condemn the arbitrary arrest and corresponding brutality by the Philippine National Police against youth volunteers and leaders aiding an anti-demolition campaign in Sitio Casia, Barangay Bankal, Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu.
From Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023, to Wednesday, Nov. 29, a total of seven individuals were taken into custody by the Lapu-Lapu City Police Station 5 led by Maj. Dexter Basirgo, while an initial 13 houses were demolished in the community under threat.
Among those detained are youth leaders from Anakbayan Cebu, a trade unionist from Alyansa sa mga Mamumuo sa Sugbo-Kilusang Mayo Uno along with urban poor leaders of Nagkahiusang Kabus sa Lapu-Lapu, and community residents. They are currently kept at the City District Jail of Lapu-Lapu, facing alarms and scandals, and simple disobedience complaints from the police.
If Sen. Bato dela Rosa is so eager to fight terrorism harming youth, if they really want to look for terrorists, then they only need to look at the police and the military of our country. There’s no need for such investigation. The answer is clear.
The police’s response to a valid act of dissent against injustice unmasks further the glaring effect of the culture of impunity that the Marcos Jr. regime is maintaining after it was cultivated by the Rodrigo Duterte administration -- that state security forces unhesitatingly and willfully violate human rights.
Even if outside moments of confrontation with authorities to assert our rights, potential elements of the armed forces have made extra effort to abduct young advocates like Dyan Gumanao and Armand Dayoha in broad daylight to stop their activism for the poor. This is what real terrorism looks like.
We are calling on the Lapu-Lapu City police to unconditionally, safely and swiftly release the seven detained individuals, as there is no clear basis at all to hold them longer in detention. Major Basirgo and other arresting officers must also be held to account for violating standard operating procedures and for going beyond their mandate, as the police have no place in any demolition, let alone arbitrarily arrest anyone who dares to question such operations.
Furthermore, while we welcome efforts by the local government to provide financial assistance to the displaced families, we urge Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard “Ahong” Chan to have a dialogue with the community and heed their just demand for on-site development, as part of his mandate to uphold and promote their rights and welfare.
We, call on the public, fellow rights defenders, and young people to stand against the worsening form of terrorism in the country: state terrorism.