Rights groups slam new wave of activist arrests
Rights groups led by Karapatan condemned the recent arrests and detention of activists and civilians, calling it an act of desperation in implementing the government’s counter-insurgency Oplan Bayanihan.
The group also said it is alarmed at the 28 people arrested illegally and detained in less than a month from December 2012 to early January this year.
Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan, claimed the Aquino administration is conveniently accusing those arrested as members or supporters of the revolutionary New People’s Army (NPA).
“The government’s desperation to meet the Oplan Bayanihan’s 2013 first phase deadline shows in the manner by which these arrests were conducted and the increasing pattern of filing trumped-up charges against activists and civilians,” Palabay said.
Karapatan said that the 28 arrested were from Cagayan Valley, Negros Oriental and Occidental and Quezon. Some were members of the government employees’ alliance Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage) and transport alliance Pagkakaisa ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (Piston), as well as the teachers’ party-list ACT Teachers’ Party-list.
Still, recent arrests
Recently arrested was Virgilio Corpuz, 61, Cagayan Valley regional coordinator for Piston on January 4, 2013.
Corpuz was arrested at his home in Santiago City, Isabela by members of the PNP Regional Mobile Group which accused the victim as being “Harold Castillo.”
Castillo is charged with 17 other individuals, including ACT organizer and Department of Social Welfare Department (DSWD) employee Rene Boy Abiva.
Abiva was arrested on December 28. 2012 for his alleged involvement in an NPA ambush of Army troops in Tinoc, Ifugao in April 25, 2012.
Piston President George San Mateo said that Corpuz was not named in the warrant of arrest that the police showed him but authorities still apprehended him.
San Mateo added that it is impossible for Corpuz to be in Tinoc, Ifugao when the ambush happened. He claimed Corpuz was in a hospital recuperating from a vehicular accident last March 2012.
“He was at the hospital for a month, when the alleged ambush took place,” he said. The Piston leader also added that Corpuz, during the time of his hospital confinement, was tasked to prepare for the regional assembly of drivers this coming February.
A consortium of non-government organizations in Cordillera also condemned the arrest of Corpuz, claiming he was a development worker.
“Virgilio Corpuz is a development worker for Katinnulong Daguiti Umili iti Amianan (Kaduami) and needs to be protected as such and should be allowed to assist the marginalized community people who are being threatened with massive landgrabbing, food insecurity and disinfranchizement. We call on our courts to be just and principled in making charges and reject these false claims made by agents of the state to criminalize development work,” the group stated.
Corpuz is also contributing writer of Nothern Dispatch, a progressive weekly publication.
Like Corpuz, Rene Boy Abiva helped depressed communities in the province of Cagayan through the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino (4Ps) of the governments’ social service agency.
Members of Social Welfare Employees Association of the Philippines (SWEAP-DSWD) showed support to their colleague. Manny Baclagon spokesperson of the group said that they are shocked to learn that Abiva was implicated in the ambush, attesting that Abiva is a municipal coordinator of 4P’s program.
“He directly supervises the program in the municipal level,” he said. Baclagon also challenged the authorities to look for the daily time record of Abiva. “He was at the office at the time of the alleged ambush.”
Abiva’s wife Mildred stated that they initially thought it was a mistaken identity. She claimed that the warrant of arrest was named Rene Abiva and they were never been in Ifugao before.
“But when Virgilio Corpuz was arrested and charged with the same case, I knew the arrests were politically motivated,” Mildred said.
Also appealing for the immediate release of Abiva and all others who were falsely charged, was Abiva’s mother Renimelda.
She said that her son was just doing his job as a DSWD employee and was supporting his younger siblings’ education.
“I hope that he will be release soon, he is kind and I believe he is not capable of doing that,” the distraught mother said.
Aside from Abiva and Corpuz, four more activists were included in the charged sheet regarding the Ifugao ambush.
The two, Randy Vegas and Raul Camposano,who were arrested on December 3, were implicated in the ambush of soldiers by the NPA in April 29, 2012, filed in Labo, Camarines Norte. The case also implicates Bayan-NCR leaders Roy Velez and Amelita Gamara, who, as urban-based mass leaders, claim they have no participation of the said ambush.
Ferdinand Gaite, Courage national president, said that charges filed were clearly fabricated.
“How can they (Vegas, Camposano, Velez and Gamara) participate in two alleged NPA ambushes in Camarines Norte and in Ifugao in the same month?” said Gaite.
Courage stressed that those arrested were simple citizens, members and leaders of progressive organizations that the authorities considered as enemies of the state and branded as NPA.
“Clearly, the arrests aim to silence dissenting voices,” Palabay said.
Karapatan also accused the Aquino government of establishing dangerous pattern of inserting names in existing warrants of arrest to legitimize false charges and clamp down on persons whom the government perceives as its enemies.
“Oplan Bayanihan took off from Gloria Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya, targeting the same communities as latter. (Both counter-insurgency programs) indiscriminately victimize people, using the same brutal methods,” Palabay said.
The group is expecting more arrests in the coming days as they cite the list of alleged communist rebels in the Joint Order No. 14-2012 of the Department of National Defense and Department of Interior and Local Government.
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