SOCIAL WORKERS AS SOCIAL ACTIVISTS
On June 26, 2020, three young social workers were among the twenty participants of the Pride March in Mendiola, Manila, who were illegally arrested and detained by the Manila Police District. They are Rogelio Feguro Jr., Nehemiah Hipos and Kim Vinzar Samina who provide psychosocial services at the Children’s Rehabilitation Center.
The arrest is ironic since the month of June is the LGBTQ+ Pride Month to “commemorate the riots held by members of the LGBT community against a police raid that took place at the Stonewall Inn in New York City on June 28, 1969”, exactly 50 years ago. The uprising became a catalyst for an emerging gay rights movement after the civil rights movement and the women’s rights movement all over the globe.
The narrative of the arrest is shocking. “The protesters who observed physical distancing were ordered to disperse. They eventually complied with the order to disperse. But after some of them had boarded their vans, the police forcibly removed the drivers from their seats and commandeered the vehicles. The protesters vehicles were brought to the Manila Police District headquarters along U.N. Avenue…” According to Bahaghari spokesperson, Rey Valmores Salinas, “the whole time, the protesters were asking why they were being arrested, the police were not answering. The police did not even read the Miranda rights, the proper police procedure to read a person’s rights upon his arrests.”
Tonight, Pride 20 were released, after five days in detention. The release is contingent on “further investigation,” i.e., the city prosecutor is still determining whether to clear them of charges or to file charges against them .
The Social Work Action Network-Philippines condemns the illegal arrest and detention of Pride 20. It celebrates their release today. But, it remains vigilant over how the case will finally be resolved.
We laud Rogelio Feguro Jr., Nehemiah Hipos and Kim Vinzar Samina for their adherence to Social Work principles of social justice, human rights, people’s empowerment and respect for diversities . In a society with creeping tyranny and gradual institutionalization of authoritarian rule, even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative for us social workers to take a stand and agenda for action. Otherwise, our silence makes us complicit. Social Work is not a neutral profession. It stands with the poor, the oppressed and marginalized, victims and survivors of violence and other human rights violations, amplifying their concerns, supporting their collective action, advocating for social transformation. As Mohamed Taib says, “if activism is a conscious act of being on the side of those who suffer, then there must be conscientious attempts to articulate these concerns.” The participation of Feguro et al in the June 26, 2020 protest action is one of ways by which they articulated concerns particular to the LGBTQ+ community and the poor and marginalized.
Amidst the current situation, we should develop and strengthen our moral courage. Beyond raising our voices to condemn their unlawful arrest, let our three colleagues inspire us into creating our own activism wherever we may be as social workers.