20 PH Pride protesters released, to file countercharges vs. police

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(FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 30) — Twenty protesters were released Tuesday night after being arrested for “violating” health safety protocols in a Pride rally in the country's capital, Manila Police District confirmed Wednesday.

Minnie Lopez, lawyer of the so-called Pride 20, said Tuesday the Manila Prosecutor’s Office approved their release, however, it recommended that cases filed against them may "be referred for further preliminary investigation."

Police said they will file charges in relation to illegal assembly, unjust vexation, as well as violation of Republic Act No. 1132 ​or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act against the concerned individuals.

Lopez said in a text message to CNN Philippines on Wednesday that they will file countercharges against the Manila police, details of which may be finalized this afternoon.

The lawyer said they "will definitely question the legality of the arrest, the brutality of the dispersal and the violation of their rights while being investigated and under detention, including the discrimination experienced by Rey Salinas," who was among those nabbed.

The protesters — members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community— took to the streets of Mendiola on Friday to voice their opposition to the controversial anti-terrorism bill.

The rallyists— who were brought to Manila Police District headquarters— argued they held a peaceful demonstration and were following health protocols such as physical distancing and wearing of masks.

An international human rights group has called on Philippine authorities to immediately release those arrested during the LGBT Pride rally in Manila last week.

“Cracking down on protests is an affront to the very notion of Pride,” the New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a statement released Monday (Tuesday in Manila).

"Authorities in the Philippines should immediately release all those arrested on June 26 and reaffirm their fundamental right to peaceful protest under domestic and international law," it added.

The HRW stressed that Philippine laws do not prohibit such rallies— given that the protesters were abiding by the health rules.

It added the Philippine government should not use the COVID-19 pandemic “as an excuse to silence dissent and violate fundamental human rights, including freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association.”

#FreePride20

The arrest of the Pride protesters took social media by storm, with netizens and celebrities alike joining the call to free them from detention.

Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray— who has long been vocal about her support for the community— questioned the arrest of the peaceful protesters.

“Is this the new normal?” Gray wrote on her Twitter page.

“If proper health guidelines were being followed, (social distancing, mask wearing) why the use of force? Pride, since the beginning has been a protest. Now is the time to speak up.”

Comedian-host Vice Ganda likewise called for help from Manila City Mayor Isko Moreno, noting how the city has always been LGBT friendly.