Day 1 of Trump’s visit: Karapatan staff arrested, 20 others injured during protests

"Who do we expect to guard a human rights violator, fascist,  and bigot like US Pres. Donald Trump?  None other than his fellow fascists, personified by our own police force. In true militarist and fascist fashion that their masters –Trump and Phil. Pres. Rodrigo Duterte – would no doubt be proud of, the police arrested Karapatan’s staff who was then driving the van and injured at least 20 protesters, including Anakbayan Chairperson Vencer Crisostomo. With the brazen disregard of Trump and Duterte of human rights, their minions seem to be shedding all pretense as well,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay. 

During a protest along Mabini St., UN Avenue, Manila, at around 2:30pm, Karapatan staff Neil Legaspi, who was then driving the van owned and utilised by Karapatan for paralegal assistance during rallies, was accosted by elements of the Task Force ASEAN and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG). Legaspi was merely trying to follow the protesters, given that the paralegal van was intended for emergency use. However, he was not allowed permission to pass despite explaining the situation. Instead, he was forced out of the vehicle, his hands tightly handcuffed, and his head forced down by two policemen identified as PO1 Agcamanan and PO2 Bigcas of the Regional Public Safety Battalion, under the leadership of Task Force ASEAN. He was also punched at his back.

The paralegal van was also taken by the police, allegedly by police operatives identified as O. Silla, E. Ocampo, R. Siochi, J. Florendo, Padua of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police. Legaspi attested that after he was taken in the CIDG bus in Kalaw, he saw the van being driven by the police. Said CIDG operatives also went in and out of the van where the paralegal team’s personal belongings were kept. 

The police are set to file cases alleging  ‘breach of peace’, purpotedly violating Batas Pambansa 880, City Ordinance 844, Article 148 (Direct Assault) and Article 151 (Resistance to a Person in Authority) of the Revised Penal Code. He will undergo inquest proceedings today, November 13.

“We personally witnessed how the CIDG scampered around to consolidate a script for the entire unit. The tag ‘scriptwriters’ is a perfect fit, as these operatives busied to stage a convincing narrative. They first planned to file a case of reckless imprudence resulting to physical injury against Legaspi, but later changed the charges

The secretary general also commented that personal belongings were missing from the bags that were inside the van. “The CIDG operatives had several minutes inside the van, whilst unmonitored. We noticed that personal belongings had already been searched, as wallets are left open and one item remains missing. The van also remains in the custody of the police. We are looking into charging the perpetrators with illegal search, carnapping, among others, after a consultation with our lawyers,” she said.

“We hold the CIDG and the Task Force ASEAN responsible for the illegal arrest of our staff. Legaspi fully explained that he was a paralegal and even asked why he was being taken away, yet the police merely told him to shut up. Such incidents of illegal arrest are not new, and have been often used by the police. We demand the immediate release of Legaspi and reiterate our commitment against such maneuvers by the police to use laws and regulations against the people’s right to protest,” concluded Palabay.