The mayor of Marikina City ordered police to release ten relief workers arrested while conducting community kitchen operations on Labor Day.
In a statement, Mayor Marcelino Teodoro told law enforcers that there is nothing wrong with members of the group Bayanihang Marikenyo at Marikenya network expressing their sentiments on placards.
“The Philippine National Police overreacted,” read the mayor’s statement released by the city government’s information office.
Earlier in the day, police arrested seven jeepney drivers, two pre-school teachers, and a leader of women’s group Gabriela who were distributing condiments for 30 community kitchens.
The community kitchens started to operate a day after the start of the government-imposed lockdown on March 16.
The initiative started with two small kitchens that later snowballed into its current size, with hundreds of volunteers, including many who remain in their homes, raising resources for a feeding program.
“I’m telling the police that they have no case to stand on,” the mayor said.
“These people informed me of their relief operations and they are part of our overall relief and humanitarian programs,” he added.
“They practice social distancing. They may have carried placards but this is Labor Day and this is an exercise of their constitutional right to free expression,” added Mayor Teodoro.
Teodoro said he supports the groups call to expand the COVID-19 testing process for the benefit of citizens.
“They called for free mass testing. That’s what the poor actually want, so they will learn whether they are positive or negative of COVID-19,” he said.
The mayor earlier tussled with national health officials as he started the process of setting up a free test center, which finally earned the green light this week.
Zena Bernardo, one of the networks’ founders, said her group applied for a travel pass last week but were told to wait until the local government could clarify guidelines.
Berardo said the police refused to obey the mayor’s order and insisted on bringing the aid workers for inquest for “illegal assembly” and “disobedience to public authority.”