Youth party slams brutal dispersal of Iloilo protest

A youth representative in Congress decried the brutal dispersal of an anti-budget cut rally in the University of the Philippines Visayas in Iloilo City on Thursday.

Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon said about 500 UP students, faculty, staff, and concerned citizens marched from the UP Iloilo City campus Thursday afternoon, as part of the National Day of Action against Budget Cuts in Education. They were protesting against the impending budget cuts for state universities and colleges in 2016, including the P2.2-billion budget cut for UP.

When the group reached General Luna Street, Ridon, citing reports reaching his office, said about 200 riot police stopped them from marching onwards to the Iloilo Provincial Capitol and proceeded to violently disperse the rally.

The police then arrested 11 protest leaders, including Bryan Bosque and Gabyel Guillen of Anakbayan-Panay, UP Visayas faculty Erick Dasig Aguilar and Gretchen Velarde, Iglesia Filipina Independiente Diocese of Iloilo Vicar General Fr. Marco Sulayao, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Panay Chair Hope Hervilla, and Karapatan-Panay Secretary General Reylan Vergara, Ridon said.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the violent dispersal of the anti-budget cut protest in UP Visayas.  

“We note in particular how the government is using an iron fist against legitimate peaceful assemblies in Iloilo, mostly after the city’s hosting of one of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation ministerial meetings,” Ridon said.

“The state violence exercised by the Aquino administration against the protesters is reminiscent of the dark days of Martial Law, when even legitimate issues and concerns were met with state violence,” Ridon added.

He said it was “deeply alarming” and ironic that the Aquino administration inflicted violence against peaceful protesters just a few days after the nation commemorated the 43rd anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law.

Ridon said the arrested protesters were only released from detention at noon Friday.

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