Arrest of peace consultant, rights advocates violates peace agreements - Karapatan

Karapatan condemned the arrest of a peace consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), along with four other companions in Laguna on October 15, 2018, as part of the “Duterte government’s relentless and gross violation of previously signed peace agreements with the NDFP, particularly the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).” 
 
(From the left: Hedda Calderon, Ireneo Atadero, Edisel Legaspi, Adel Silva, and Julio Lusania) 

Adelberto Silva, 71, is a peace consultant and member of the NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms in the peace process. Silva was arrested on October 15, at 2pm in Sta. Cruz, Laguna, along with Ireneo Atadero, 55; Edisel Legaspi, 60; Hedda Calderon, 63; and Julio Lusania, 53, by combined elements of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), the 2nd Infantry Division – 1st Infantry Battalion – Philippine Army, Philippine National Police and the  Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP). The five were held at gunpoint by several men who alighted from at least five vehicles. 

As of this writing, lawyers of the victims have yet to receive the copy of the resolution of the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office in Sta. Cruz, Laguna on the charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives filed by the police and military. According to the five arrested, the state forces planted firearms, hand grenades and other explosives in their vehicle to justify their arrest and detention. 

“The continuous attacks against peace advocates and rights defenders, subsequently linking them to imagined conspiracy theories are meant to conceal the elephant in the room – the worsening economic and political situation in the country,” Palabay stated.

She emphasized that those arrested were peace and human rights advocates heading for a consultation, in line with NDFP-Reciprocal Working Committee’s thrust to continue its work regarding the draft agreement on socio-economic reforms. 

Edisel Legaspi is an agriculturist and organic farmer who took up BS Agricultural Engineering from the University of the Philippines – Los Baños. He remains a proponent of organic farming and a staunch peasant advocate. Hedda Calderon is a staunch activist for women’s rights and a graduate of social work in the University of the Philippines-Diliman. She is a consultant of the Gabriela Women’s Partylist and the President of the Board of Lila Pilipina, an organization advocating for the rights and welfare of comfort women during the time of the Japanese occupation. Ireneo Atadero, a former seaman, is an organizer of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU). Julio Lusania, meanwhile, is the driver hired by the group.

“Silva, Atadero, Legaspi, Calderon, and Lusania are determined and courageous peasant, women, and workers’ advocates who continue to support the peace process. Many of them are already elderly, yet they remained resolute in their respective advocacies. Their work is concealed from the spotlight, unlike the many politicians who crave attention, but their contribution to the empowerment and advancement of the struggles of various sectors is certain and acknowledged by the people whom they have served,” added Palabay.

“We call for the immediate release of Silva, Atadero, Legaspi, Calderon, and Lusania, as well as all the political prisoners who continue to unjustly serve time in jail for trumped-up charges. What remains clear is the onslaught of rights violations perpetrated by the Duterte regime and its desperation to curtail the rights of advocates and defenders who continue to work for the most oppressed sectors in our society,” Palabay concluded.