Cases filed vs. 18 'protesters' arrested in Quezon City

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 2) — The Quezon City police on Saturday filed cases against 18 people accused of conducting a Labor Day protest in violation of quarantine measures.

Police said the suspects, led by members of Tulong Kabataan, a relief and rehabilitation network under the Kabataan partylist, held an "illegal protest rally" on Kalayaan Avenue corner Maparaan Street Friday afternoon.

"The group shouted on the street as they lined up while holding tarpaulins with their grievances printed on it," the Quezon City Police District said in a statement, stressing that the public should stay at home amid the enhanced community quarantine imposed in Metro Manila.

Mass gatherings are prohibited in the entire country to prevent further spread of COVID-19, which has infected 8,000, mostly in Metro Manila.

Tulong Kabataan is calling for the release of the suspects, composed of four volunteers running their community kitchen and 14 Quezon City residents, including university students.

The group said some residents and jeepney drivers sought assistance from the group "because they are being called by the barangay, accusing them of participating in Mayo Uno activities."

"Our volunteers went to the barangay hall where they were immediately escorted to Camp Karingal by four policemen in plain clothing," the group said.

The police filed cases against them for violations of the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act, the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act, and the Public Assembly Act of 1985.

Also on Labor Day, 10 feeding program volunteers were arrested in Marikina City for supposedly holding a protest. They were later released after Mayor Marcelino "Marcy" Tedoro ordered the police to do so, noting that arresting officers only "overreacted" and "misinterpreted" the placards they were holding which bore messages calling for mass testing.

According to the local Center for Trade Union and Human Rights, 76 people were arrested in separate incidents across the country on Labor Day, which was described by the Philippine National Police as "peaceful, orderly and uneventful," except for some "isolated developments."

"We call for the immediate release of the arrested relief volunteers and the junking of trumped-up and ridiculous charges leveled against those serving our people," former Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo said in a statement as spokesperson of the group CURE COVID.

Labor groups conducted online protests amid the ban on mass gatherings and a warning that rallyists will be nabbed for violating quarantine rules.

The PNP is implementing a zero-tolerance policy for quarantine violators, stressing that they will face immediate arrest, unlike in previous weeks when some were sent off with a warning. Local police have yet to release a report on the Marikina incident.