ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews / 13 June) – Sixteen students arrested for staging a rally to junk the Anti-Terrorism Bill at the rotunda in Palao at around 10 a.m. on Friday, June 12, the 122nd commemoration of Philippine Independence, were released to their parents at 6 p.m, or eight hours later.
Major Allan Abalde, Police Station 5 Commander said of the 16 arrested, 13 were students from the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) who staged a rally at the rotunda in front of the Iligan Meidcal Center College in Palao, while three others were found during the investigation to have had no involvement in the rally but ran when the student-protesters scampered away.
Abalde said the students violated a city ordinance on social distancing and health protocols amid COVID-19, prompting the police to arrest and issue them citations. They were also fined 1,000 pesos each.
Abalde said the 13 students were members of Stand IIT and Iligan Youth Advocates.
He said lawyer Leo Montalban Zaragoza facilitated the release of the students. MindaNews sought Zaragoza for other details on what happened but he could not be reached.
Abalde explained their release was delayed “because of the problem arising from the procedural documentation of the personal circumstances of the subjects.”
Mayor Celso Regencia who led the 122nd Independence Day celebration supports the Anti-Terror Bill which has been transmitted to Malacanang for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature. Once signed, it will be known as the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
Colonel Michael Pareja, City Police Director., lauded the efforts of his police for their vigilance.
Gil Nambatac, member of Himugso Kolektibo, a group of young writers in Iligan City, said he was supposed to join the group when he saw his colleagues running to different directions when the police arrived.
“When I arrived, the students were scampering away because the police signaled for their arrest. First time for these students in this kind of event. They were violently taken by policemen,” Nambatac recalled.
Nambatac clarified that the arrested students are not members of any militant or progressive group, but members and leaders of college-based organizations at MSU-IIT.
Most of them, he said, are freshmen and are known to have critical minds.
Nambatac said the students were shaken and deeply traumatized when policemen forced them into waiting police vehicles.
He said a group of Psychology students volunteered to hold trauma-healing sessions with the students this weekend. (Richel V. Umel and Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)