February 10, 2010
Members of the labor party-list Partido ng Manggagawa (PM ) in Batangas complained of police harassment in the opening salvo of its campaign yesterday. Two police mobile cars with six policemen blocked more than a hundred PM members in Sto. Tomas, Batangas around 6:00 p.m. last night and prohibited the group from proceeding with its march.
“The PM community march in Batangas was a legitimate electoral campaign activity that the police can only regulate but not prohibit. We condemn the harassment and violation of our right to campaign,” declared Renato Magtubo, PM national chairperson.
According to Beatriz Tolentino, PM leader in Batangas and participant in the march, the group was planning to proceed along the Pres. Laurel highway towards the Sto. Tomas public market and distribute leaflets along the way when at the intersection a municipal road and the highway, the police blocked their way. “Headed by a certain Capt. Lunar, the police insisted that we were not allowed to proceed since we lacked a permit. But we argued that no permit is necessary since it is already the start of the campaign period. We were also not blocking or obstructing traffic since we were marching in rows of two,” she insisted.
PM kicked off the opening salvo of its campaign for party-list by launching community marches at its base areas nationwide from Metro Manila to Davao City. The community march in Sto. Tomas, Batangas was only one of numerous grassroots-level activities of the group. “This is our non-conventional approach to the party-list campaign that is different from the traditional campaign of national candidates,” explained Magtubo.
The Batangas PM members started assembling around 5:00 p.m. near the San Roque barangay hall in Sto. Tomas. After a short program, more than a hundred PM members launched the march but were later blocked by the Sto. Tomas police.
The group is studying the option of filing complaints against the police. “In fairness, Capt. Lunar was apologetic but still insisted on stopping the march since he said that they were only doing their job. Yet Capt. Lunar must understand that if we proceed with filing a case against them after consultation with lawyers,” we are doing it in defending our rights,” said Tolentino.
Magtubo added that if campaigners need to secure a permit from the police for legitimate forms of electoral activity then the campaign would become bogged down by such red tape.