Anti-Terrorism Bill supporters, dissenters hold lightning rallies

MEMBERS of cause-oriented groups in Cebu City claimed the local police have a double standard, following differing responses on rallies held by those for and against the proposed Anti-Terrorism Law on Independence Day, June 12, 2020.

Jaime Paglinawan, Bayan Central Visayas spokesperson, said it was unfair for police to allow supporters of the Anti-Terrorism Bill to hold rallies longer than those against it.

"If supporters of the Anti-Terrorism Bill can freely hold a rally without threat or fear of violent dispersal or arrest, then the dissenters should also be extended the same courtesy," Paglinawan told SunStar Cebu.

Some members of the Movement Against Tyranny (MAT) Cebu and the Youth Act Now Against Tyranny (Yanat) Cebu staged a lightning protest against the proposed measure along Gorordo Ave. on June 12, in line with the 122nd commemoration of Philippine Independence Day.

Some of them were given only 30 seconds to hold their activity before police dispersed them.

But as activists against the Anti-Terrorism Bill marched uptown, those supporting the measure marched in downtown Cebu City.

Some of them held the activity for at least eight minutes before they were ordered to disperse by police.

Regletto Imbong, president of the All UP Academic Employees' Union and a convenor of the MAT Cebu called it ironic that the police were decked out in riot gear for their protest unlike those who were stationed downtown.

Imbong said their protest is to show that despite the recent arrests and the current political climate, they are still willing to defend the fundamental freedom against those who have plans to curtail it.

Though their activity was attended by only 10 participants and lasted for only half a minute, Imbong still believed it was successful.

Following reports that police were waiting for them outside the University of the Philippines Cebu campus, Imbong and his fellow activists conducted their activity along Gorordo Ave.

Police were already waiting for them as early as 8 a.m.

Imbong said: "We intentionally designed it that way, a lightning rally, because of our current political climate. This is also the new normal for use now."

"We were quick on our feet, especially when we saw the police coming for us," he added.

Separately, Cebu City Police Office officer-in-charge Police Col. Cydric Tamayo clarified that it is not their intention to arrest anyone holding a protest.

The police will only arrest mass gatherings of more than 10 persons as this is against the city's general community quarantine protocol.

However, Tamayo said they do not arrest people right away and will first give them a warning to stop the program.

Tamayo said he found this year’s Independence Day celebration rather peaceful, all things considered. (WBS, AYB, CBQ)