By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Two activists, EuleRico Bonganay and Abigail Extremadura, who were arrested during a March 7 rally by women’s groups in front of Gate 7 of Malacañang Palace, were released on March 8, International Women’s Day, after being jailed for a night at the Manila Police District station.
“The arrest of activists is a clear violation of our freedom of expression and the right to assemble,” Bonganay told reporters after their release.
He added that their arrest proves that there is no democracy in the country. “Those who are fighting for what they believe in are facing trumped up charges.”
According to Gabriela, which led the protest action, they “were driven back outside the gates leading to the palace” after the clash with the police. The group tried to hold another program, this time, at the Peace Arch area at the foot of the Mendiola bridge, where protest actions are usually held.
The short program, Gabriela said, was “winding down and packing up when some officers moved in and started to grab Gabriela secretary general Joms Salvador as she and her companions were walking out.”
“At least three cops assaulted me, first they grabbed me, and proceeded to strangle me and drag me away from my companions,” Salvador said. Her companions, on the other hand, pulled her away from the police.
“The police retaliated by punching and pulling the hair of the rescuers. All in all, 16 women were badly beaten and sustained cuts. Personal belongings were either seized illegally or vandalized,” Gabriela’s statement read.
It was during this time that Bonganay, media liaison officer of Children’s Rehabilitation Center, and Extremadura, a leader of Gabriela’s chapter in Batasan, were arrested.
Gabriela, in its statement, condemned the arrest and detention of the two activists.
Salvador said the violent dispersal is “part of the deep-rooted fascist character of the Aquino regime in dealing with the people’s legitimate demands, and his abject subservience to foreign interests that makes Aquino write off all notions of national sovereignty and patrimony.”
“Aquino spares no diplomacy for people whose opinions are different from his. It’s not surprising this regime throws a hardline fit to every legitimate request from his people,” Salvador said.
“This only shows that Aquino sides and protects the interest of the US, which is responsible for the plunder of our natural resources,” Extremadura told reporters after her release.
Bonganay, for part, said more people will come out to fight against the kind of system that the country has, “where only very few are benefiting.”