Twenty-one protesting and hungry Quezon City residents were arrested Tuesday morning, April 1, the incident earning swift condemnation from the urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay).
Residents of Sitio San Roque, Barangay Bagong Pag-Asa, reportedly members of the group Sandigan ng Maralitang Nagkakaisa (SaMaNa) held a protest action along Epifanio delos Santos Avenue and were violently dispersed by the Quezon City Police Department.
Although not affliated with their group, Kadamay said the SaMaNa protesters were calling for food and social services amid the corona virus disease (Covid-19) lockdown imposed on the whole Luzon island by the Rodrigo Duterte government.
Kadamay said the protesters have yet to be given food and other aid promised by the government in imposing the lockdown since March 15.
In a DZRH report, the arresting officers were heard to have repeatedly accused the protesters of being “hard-headed” for refusing to stay indoors.
Kadamay however clarified the residents’ protest action was a spontaneous demonstration “rooted in the growing discontent, hunger and frustration at the lack of aid from government.”
The urban poor group urged that instead of responding with violence and arrests, the government should solve grave deficiencies in handling the crisis it says affect the poor as the most vulnerable sector in the country.
“Instead of listening to pleas about the lack of services, the poor are being subjected to violence and arrest. We should instead ask, why is there no help being given to the poor?” Kadamay chairperson Gloria Arellano said.
Arellano said such protest actions are bound to happen if the government insists on a militarist response to the pandemic instead of focusing on social services.
She stressed that it is the primary task of the national government to address the urgent need for food, sanitation, medical services and other basic needs during the pandemic, adding that the Duterte administration continues to pass on the burden to many ill equipped local government units while avoiding outlining a concrete plan apart from the lockdown.
Kadamay said it will do everything it can to help in the negotiations for the release of the arrested.
The group also revealed it is operating community kitchens and relief operations in several poor communities in and outside Metro Manila, adding however that these activities are limited in scope.
Kadamay said it remains the responsibility of the government to address the needs of the people during the emergency. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)