Farmers to gov’t: Stop using pandemic as an excuse to curtail peoples’ freedoms

On 122nd Araw ng Kalayaan

“We are exercising our inherent right to express and peaceably assemble. We have just reasons to oppose the Anti-Terror Bill and the government’s extreme negligence toward the plight of the people,” says Danilo Ramos, chairperson of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, one of the groups joining the Grand Mañanita today at the University of the Philippines in observance of the 122nd Philippine Independence Day. “We are safeguarding our remaining democratic rights and civil liberties. We will never surrender these rights to the government’s Terror Bill that is meant to impose Duterte’s open fascist rule.”

Ramos said it is highly ironic that authorities led by the Department of Justice and the Philippine National Police would restrict and restrain Filipinos on Independence Day. “Our ancestors and heroes who died fighting for the nation’s independence from foreign clutches would turn on their graves at this deplorable violation of the people’s rights,” the peasant leader said.

“The government must stop using the coronavirus and the pandemic situation as an excuse to curtail people’s rights and abuse the rule of law,” Ramos says. KMP noted the case of farmworker Gaspar Davao who was arbitrarily arrested in Cadiz City, Negros Occidental by authorities who reportedly first told him that he was COVID19 positive. Hours after, a hand grenade was planted as evidence among his belongings which was then used to justify his detention.

“The government’s sheer incompetence is killing and worsening the lives of the people more than the virus does,” Ramos said as he noted the government’s accountability in the death of Michelle Silvertino, a 33-year old house help who died after days of staying under a footbridge while waiting for transport to go back to her family in Bicol.

“We can list a thousand and one reasons to protest the government’s negligence: mass testing targets remain lagging; tens of thousands of locally stranded individuals; millions lost their jobs and livelihood; millions have not received promised cash aid; the people have no means of public transport; cases of COVID-19 in the provinces rise as a result of the government’s Balik Probinsya program; and more. The population is more enraged and desperate by the day, and yet, the government cannot as much as recognize its shortcomings. Instead aims to silence the people’s legitimate grievances with the Anti-Terror Bill,” Ramos said.

“We warn the PNP to refrain from arresting individuals joining the nationwide Grand Mananita activities today. Civilian supremacy over police authority must reign. Democratic protests are essential,” the KMP leader concluded. #

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