7 Protesters Illegally Detained; 5 Released on Bail as Harassment Marks Rizal Anniv Protest for Education, Land Reform

Seven activist-protesters belonging to the Kabataan Partylist and Anakpawis Partylist in Southern Tagalog (ST) who asserted their demands for education for all and genuine land reform, now collectively known as the Calamba 7 are now facing trumped up charges that constitute alarm and scandal following their lightning protest in the middle of the speech of President Benigno Aquino during the celebration of Dr. Jose Rizal’s 150th birth anniversary in front of the Calamba City Hall.

Kabataan Partylist-Southern Tagalog reported that the seven activists, composed of students and workers were subdued by police and presidential security group (PSG) operatives after shouting “Walang pagbabago sa ilalim ni Aquino!” (No reforms under Aquino) and “Tunay na Reporma sa Lupa, Ipaglaban” (Struggle for genuine land reform) while Aquino is talking.

They were later illegally arrested and detained last June 19 at the Calamba City Police Station pending filing of charges by the local police.

The seven were identified as Mikel Mozo, Ynik Ante, Ruffa Solano, Bhen Aguihon and Cathy Gigantone, all members of Kabataan Partylist – U.P. Los Baños chapter. The other two are Joefrey Barreto and Rodel Badayos of Anakpawis Partylist- Southern Tagalog

Calls and demands

According to John Paulo Bautista, Kabataan Partylist – ST secretary general,  “the act may seem disrespectful to some people but this issue is beyond what is relatively moral, it is more about what is just and legitimate. Our members have done nothing that can be considered illegal.”

“Aquino’s blatant disregard to the education sector with last year’s P1.39 billion education budget cut has caused thousands of youth from Southern Tagalog to not be able to enroll this semester. It is therefore our constitutionally guaranteed right to show our dissent to this continuing state abandonment,” he stated.

He furthered that holding a lightning rally is a constitutionally guaranteed right and should not be used against the protesters. “There should not be any case at all. If any, the Calamba police are the ones that should be sued for illegal arrest and detention.”

Meanwhile, a similar protest was also conducted by various sectoral groups led by Bagong Alayansang Makabayan outside the cordoned area along Brgy. Halang junction. Aquino’s convoy were met with chants by protesters bringing with them placards containing their calls and masks bearing the picture of Dr. Jose Rizal.

Rally for support

Various sectors mainly students, workers and farmers led by Kabataan Partylist-ST and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-ST trooped to the Calamba City police station to show their support for the detained activists through statements and holding of vigil and setting up of a protest camp despite torrential rains to demand the release of the protesters.

In a statement, the militant peasant movement in Southern Tagalog expressed their admiration on the five young militant activists for echoing their struggle for genuine agrarian reform.

“These youth activists are the real hope of the nation,” Nestor Villanueva, spokesperson of Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) said.

“They were able to grasp the real issue of the country – landlessness – the same problem of the Filipinos that Rizal is trying to expose during the Spanish colonization,” the peasant leader added.

The women’s group Gabriela-ST also condemned the harassment and illegal arrest of the Calamba 7, a member of whom is member of Gabriela Youth and commended their courage to promote the plight of the poor and the oppressed sectors of society.

“They are what Rizal described as the real hope of the fatherland, hence, they should not be faced violence. Rizal would surely oppose the treatment of the state against the youth,” RJ Manalo, Gabriela-ST secretary general said in their statement.

The College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) – ST meanwhile called for the release of the 7 individuals and chided the arrest saying that Rizal, a staunch freedom fighter would be most frustrated in this act of repression.

“If Aquino indeed values the spirit of Rizal’s life and death, then why does the state continue to persecute and detain the youth which it considers as the hope of the nation?” the group said in a statement.

“UPLB 5” released

Five of the seven activists were already released Tuesday, June 21 at around 6pm after posting a 12 thousand bail and serving a total of 58 hours and 30 minutes in detention at the Calamba City Police Station.

Kabataan Partylist said that the court rules out the group’s petition for recognizance to waive P42, 000 bail provided that their legal counsel shall vouch for their presence in court hearings.

A program was held in front of the Calamba City Hall to forge solidarity with the activists where they joined with supporters from the ranks of workers, farmers, students, women and urban poor to march from the City Hall to Halang call for the dropping of the charges.

Charges still on

Bautista said that justice to Calamba 7 has yet to be served as the court still pursues the trumped up charges against them.

He however maintained that lightning rally was peaceful and did not constitute public disturbance. He also chided the PNP and PSG for illegally arresting, manhandling and detaining the protesters.

“The fight for our right to free speech does not end with the release of the Calamba 7,” he said.

He added that it would be easy to prove that the case does not have a reasonable cause and that the activists were not supposed to be arrested and detained in the first place. “We call on supporters to shift campaign to a call for the immediate dismissal of the charges.”

Kabataan Partylist – UPLB spokesperson Julienne Urrea further call on the UPLB community to intensify campaign against political persecution and repression of student activists and to link it to the worsening education crisis.

Bautista added, “We, at Kabataan Partylist, are going to lobby for an inquiry as regards to the illegal arrest and detention that was committed. We are raising this as an issue of national concern.

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