ILOILO City – Members of Iloilo progressive groups staged a picket in front of the Police Regional Office 6 in Fort San Pedro here yesterday to protest Thursday’s raids on their Bacolod City-based counterparts. They demanded the release of 57 arrested activists.
“(President Rodrigo) Duterte is intolerant of dissent,” said Elmer Forro, secretary-general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Panay.
By challenging government policies deemed inimical, activists were espousing people’s welfare and defending human rights, said Forro.
Activism is not a crime, he stressed.
For its part, human rights group Karapatan decried the coordinated raids and mass arrests conducted by the Philippine National Police and Philippine Army on Oct. 31. The evidence allegedly gathered from the raids were planted, and were mere “Halloween dirty tricks” by a regime to discredit and silence critics, it asserted.
“Truly, the real horrors and monsters of today come in uniform, expensive barongs, and suit and ties that perpetrate State terrorism in surreptitious and deceptive ways,” said Karapatan vice chairperson Reylan Vergara.
These were nothing new, he said, “but the mass arrest of 59 individuals in one day of terror is as an alarming sign of the government’s intensifying efforts to crackdown on its critics.”
Peasant leaders, trade unionists, human rights defenders, cultural workers, a community journalist, women’s rights activists as well minors were among the individuals arrested in Bacolod City (57) and Manila (two) during raids of the regional offices of Bayan Muna, Karapatan, Gabriela, the National Federation of Sugar Workers as well as the residences of activists and mass leaders.
Supposedly seized by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group from the raids were “assorted short caliber firearms, sub-machine guns, machine guns, live ammunitions, hand grenades, bladed weapons, Kilusang Mayo Uno flags, megaphones, microphones, and voluminous subversive documents” according to National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict communications chief Martin Andanar.
“Andanar must be delusional to even put supposedly seized illegal firearms and explosives side by side with KMU flags, megaphones, microphones, and ‘subversive’ documents as evidence of their connections to the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army. They’re now also desperately and illegally confiscating activists’ equipment as proof because they know that the firearms they ‘recovered’ from the offices are shamelessly planted,” Vergara said.
The Karapatan official also questioned the search warrant issued by Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 89 “whose jurisdiction does not even fall on a city hundreds of miles away from Quezon City.”
Burgos-Villavert also issued the search warrants that led to the arrest of Gabriela Metro Manila spokesperson Cora Agovida and her husband Kadamay Metro Manila campaign officer Mickael Tan Bartolome in Manila earlier the same day.
“Andanar wants to give the impression that the arbitrary arrests were lawful simply by virtue of showing a search warrant. However, the questionable source of the said warrant is hidden from the public, conveniently removed from their press releases,” Vergara explained./PN