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Zambales youth activists, driver freed on ₧66K bail

CASTILLEJOS, Zambales—Eleven youth activists and a van driver who were arrested here on Labor Day on what was described as trumped-up violation of health protocols regained temporary liberty late Monday after spending three days and two nights in the custodial facility of the police office in this town.

According to the Zambales chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), its legal aid team secured an order releasing the so-called Zambales 11  after last-minute coordination with court officials for a bail of P66,000.

Those who were released from detention were identified as JayP Masangkay, 20 years old, of Sto. Rosario, Iba, Zambales; Jezreel Giron, 19, of Amungan, Iba; Alberto Josafat Jr., 21, of Dirita Baloguen, Iba; Justin Cesar Morta, 21, Jake Marc Cabal, 21, and Ma. Alessandra Arpafo, 20, all of  Palanginan, Iba; Deneese Rose Velasco, 21, and Rassil Gime, 19, both of Zone 1, Iba; Natalie Luning, 21, of Zone V, Iba; Joshua August Daliposa, 21, of Parel, Botolan; Tracy Cartaño, 19, also of Botolan; and van driver Eidnyl Lareza, 26, and a resident of Bangantalinga, Iba.

The local lawyers’ group said it took on the case of the detained activists after receiving a request for assistance from the IBP’s National Committee on Legal Aid at 10:32 a.m. on Monday.

University of the Philippines (UP) President Danilo Concepcion reportedly asked for IBP’s help on behalf of Luning, who is a student of UP Manila and staffer of the school paper Collegian.

“After learning that the inquest prosecutor issued a resolution charging the Zambales 11 and their van driver for violation of [health safety protocols] and, except for the driver, simple disobedience to person in authority, our committee on legal aid coordinated with the prosecutor, the clerk of court and the parents of Zambales 11 and their friends to ensure that they will be able to post bail today,” IBP Zambales announced on Monday night.

After the necessary information were filed in court at 5:00 p.m., Presiding Judge Ildefonso Recitis of the 4th Municipal Circuit Trial Court in San Marcelino town signed the release order at 6:30 p.m. and the detained youths and their driver finally walked away from detention at 8 p.m., IBP-Zambales added.

The youth activists, who were earlier identified as members of the militant League of Filipino Students (LFS), were reportedly on their way to a Labor Day rally in Angeles City last Saturday when their vehicle, a Toyota Hi-Ace van, was stopped at a police checkpoint here at 7:30 a.m.

The Zambales Provincial Police Office (ZPPO) said those arrested “clearly violated social/physical distancing” inside the vehicle and “failed to present any identification card and proof of residency.”

It added that except for van driver Lareza, those arrested “deliberately refused [to reveal] their identities” when accosted by the police.

The arrest and detention of the youth activists generated an outcry from students and human-rights groups who said that it was “yet another attempt to intimidate activists and journalists in their bid to air and write about the masses’ grievances.”

The College Editors Guild of the Philippines said it was “an outright violation of free speech, dissent, and human rights” and that baseless accusations were used to illegally hold the students.

Following the release of the “Zambales 11,” the League of Filipino Students said it welcomes the development, but “remains wary and certainly vigilant” as it received reports of ongoing online death threats and intimidations to other LFS Zambales members.

“The youth activists inhumanely arrested were also red-tagged by front organizations of the military masquerading as civil groups. Facebook posts infested social-media pages with the release of their mugshots without any form of consent,” it added.

Image courtesy of IBP-Zambales

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