POSTSCRIPT / June 28, 2020 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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LGBT arrests hint of Terror Law flaws

THE ARREST of members of the LGBT community who were demonstrating near Malacañang on Friday may have given us a preview of disputes that could arise if/when the Anti-Terrorism Bill, which they were protesting, becomes law.

Some 20 activists were arrested around 10:30 a.m. near Mendiola St. and hauled to the Manila police headquarters without being told, according to them, on what charges. Video of the rough roundup had been uploaded on social media.

If state forces now openly violate the rights of activists, critics and dissenters, with more likelihood such police excesses will be committed if the more oppressive Anti-Terrorism Bill awaiting action on the desk of President Duterte becomes law.

After the arrests, police Lt. Col. Carlo Magno Manuel, Manila police spokesman, explained: “They were noticed and approached by the police. They were asked if they had a permit, but they couldn’t show one. It is not our intention to arrest them.”

Manuel said a protester provoked one of the policemen, thus starting a commotion. But Rey Valmores Salinas, Bahaghari spokesperson, insisted that their demo was orderly until the police with anti-riot shields came, arrested and crammed them in a van without regard for distancing rules.

Salinas said that the protesters, as media videos can confirm, wore masks and observed social distancing and other protocols. He said the police did not and could not tell them why they were being arrested.

Manuel later told CNN Philippines that charges to be filed against the protesters will include illegal assembly, unjust vexation, and violation of RA 1132.

Aside from the Anti-Terrorism Bill awaiting the President’s action, the Bahaghari group was also questioning the phaseout of old jeepneys, LGBTQ+ discrimination, and the spotty Covid-19 mass testing.

Referred to by the gay community worldwide as Pride Month, June sees protest actions recalling the violent “Stonewall riots” in the US by LGBT+ groups reacting to a police raid on June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village, New York City.

That global community is a loose grouping of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, LGBT organizations, and subcultures, united by a common culture and social movements.

The protest rally at Mendiola on Friday highlighted the need for a serious review of the Anti-Terrorism Bill, regardless of whether or not it becomes law or is challenged before the Supreme Court.

Watching the police in their crowd-dispersal performance on Friday brings out a number of points:

*The police are distinct and separate from the armed forces, and should stop mimicking the military. They should not use military ranks and must shed their camouflage uniform which makes them look like army trainees lost in an urban and civilian environment.

*Police uniforms worn in raids and anti-riot operations should have prominent and clear markings at the back that they are POLICE. Their NAMES and UNIT must be big enough to be readable and permanently stitched on the front of the uniforms.

*A police team must include a uniformed member tasked to video-record the operation. At least half of the team members must be equipped with working body cameras.

*Guidelines and standard operating procedures should be periodically updated and calibrated when applied to actual situations. They should be publicized and made known to those who serve notice or seek permits to hold marches, protests or rallies.

*In like manner, persons and groups seeking a permit to hold marches or demonstrations should be required to wear common-colored identifying attire and affordable protective gear such as masks, headgear, vests and the like for their proper identification and protection.

Members of media as well as medical and support groups, including the Red Cross, must also wear identifying attires to help them perform their tasks properly and not get in harm’s way. They should also carry or display photo-IDs issued by their organizations or the government.

 Duterte bill renaming NAIA assailed

IN THE MIDST of the Covid-19 pandemic, Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte and two cohorts have filed a bill renaming the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City the Paliparang Pandaigdig ng Pilipinas (PaPaPi), kicking up widespread objections.

That would be like killing again Ninoy Aquino who was shot dead on the tarmac of the airport that now bears his name upon his return from a three-year exile on Aug. 21, 1983, seeking a peaceful end to the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.

On TwitterJoeAm @societyofhonor said: “Ninoy Aquino represents the highest courage, the highest honor, of mankind. The highest courage, the highest honor, of being Filipino. To face ruthless power, to walk down the ramp. I cannot grasp how a nation would choose to say that no longer means anything.”

Maximo L. Sangil @trendingmax said: “It will be very difficult for foreigner pilots to pronounce it.”

Lupita Aquino Kashiwahara, Ninoy’s sister, told us: “Manila International Airport was renamed in recognition of the historical impact Ninoy Aquino’s assassination had not only on our country but around the world. The blood he shed on the tarmac symbolized the ultimate sacrifice he made for a return to democracy in the Philippines. I wonder whether those proposing to change the airport’s name would even be in office today had it not been for Ninoy.

“Many countries have used airports to honor their own historical figures including Indonesia, India, Thailand and the United States. In doing so they have not lost their national identities. If the congressmen proposing change intend to rebrand the Philippines as a tourist destination, the question is for whom? Most foreign tourists will have no idea what the Tagalog name means and Filipinos already know the airport is in the Philippines.

“The revisionist congressmen are playing politics while attempting to deny their country’s history. Let’s not have these politicians get away with it.”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 28, 2020)

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