16 student protesters released after arrest in Iligan City on Independence Day

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 12) — Sixteen student protesters who were earlier arrested in Iligan City in Lanao del Norte on Independence Day, have now been released from police custody.

A group of students from Mindanao State University - Iligan Institute of Technology gathered at the Rotonda, Barangay Pala around 10 a.m. to call for the junking of the anti-terrorism bill, for mass testing for COVID-19 and awareness on other issues.

However, police claimed that during the protest, health protocols on physical distancing amid the coronavirus crisis were not observed, prompting the City Intelligence Unit to "invite" the protesters to the police station to issue them a citation ticket.

Investigation showed that out of the 16, three were not members of the protest group and only ran because of panic.

All 16 students were released around 6 p.m. Police explained that the release was delayed due to a volunteer lawyer questioning their documentation procedure.

The protesters' group earlier defended that health protocols were observed, adding that the arrest was illegal.

Kabataan Party-list Representative Sarah Elago said in a tweet that authorities gave protesters 10 minutes to stage the protest but went on to arrest them anyway.

The Kabataan Partylist Northern Mindanao earlier said 14 of the 16 protesters were arrested and held at the Iligan City Police Station 5.

#RELEASEILIGAN14 trended on Twitter as netizens criticized the dispersal of the protesters, pointing out that they were wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

In an afternoon statement, the Philippine National Police said "no arrests were made" in connection with Independence Day rallies, noting that there were "pockets of protests and public assemblies by small groups."

The biggest rally was at the University of the Philippines Diliman campus in Quezon City. Groups were calling out the Duterte administration for the Anti-Terrorism Bill, saying its provisions are unconstitutional. The bill is one step away from becoming law.

Protesters branded their gathering as a "mañanita," a direct swipe at Metro Manila police chief Debold Sinas, who held a birthday gathering with police officers in their barracks inside Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan in violation of the enhanced community quarantine protocols.

LOOK: Activist Mae Paner dresses up as Sinas for 'Grand Mañanita' protest

The PNP said there were other assemblies in the De La Salle University; St. Ignatius Quezon City; Santiago City, Isabela; Baguio City; Legazpi City; and Metro Colon, Cebu City. Police said those protesters dispersed on their own after staging morning programs.

Stringer Alwen Saliring contributed to this report.