Urgent Action Update: Protesters Seeking Relief to Be Arraigned (Philippines: UA 50.20)
June 29, 2020
Peaceful protesters, who had gathered to demand government aid during the COVID-19 community quarantine, were violently dispersed by the police on 1 April 2020, resulting in 21 protesters being arrested & detained. The protesters, who have since been released on bail, will be informed of the charges against them and expected to enter their plea on 28 August. We continue to call on the police to drop all charges against them as these are either contrary to international human rights law or carry penalties that will disproportionately affect the group and that the authorities investigate the police’s use of force at the protest.
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PBGEN Ronnie S. Montejo Director, Quezon City Police District Due to postal restrictions caused by COVID-19, please only send physical mail to the Embassy
Fax number: 632 8925 8326
Email: [email protected][email protected]
Ambassador Jose Manuel G. Romualdez Embassy of the Philippines
1600 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington DC 20036
Phone: 202 467 9300 I Fax: 202 328 7614
Email: [email protected]
Salutation: Dear Ambassador
Dear Police Brigadier General Montejo,
I am writing to express my concern about the ongoing prosecution, including the impending arraignment, of 21 residents of San Roque village, Quezon City who staged a peaceful protest on 1 April 2020. The residents peacefully protested to call for government aid, after a supposed relief distribution by a private company did not happen. Because of the community quarantine that began on 17 March 2020 to address the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of Filipinos have been unable to earn a living. The Save San Roque Alliance maintains that the police violently dispersed the protesters and hit people with wooden sticks. There appears to have been no action to investigate allegations of violence by the police.
The 21 individuals may face various charges, including “unlawful assembly” and “non-cooperation in a health emergency”, with combined penalties of up to 20 months in jail and over PhP 1.1 million (USD 22,000) in fines each. Amnesty International calls on governments not to imprison people solely for breaching public health restrictions, which is a disproportionate measure in the current context. The charges are contrary to international human rights law or carry penalties with a disproportionate impact.
Furthermore, I wish you to consider that the enforcement of prison sentences is likely to further compound the public health problems caused by the pandemic and would fail to meet the test of necessity and proportionality. I call on you to drop all charges against the 21 residents of San Roque village, as the charges are either contrary to international human rights law or carry penalties that will disproportionately affect this group; launch a prompt, independent and impartial investigation into the police’s use of force, which may amount to torture or other ill-treatment, and bring anyone responsible to justice in a fair trial; and ensure that all residents of San Roque have prompt and adequate access to food, medicine and other basic needs and are empowered and supported to comply with the community quarantine.