Former public sector union organizers arrested

Former officers and organizers of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE) were abducted on August 11, 2018. Spouses Rowena and Oliver Rosales were forcibly taken while onboard their privately-owned tricycle at Galvez St., Brgy. Wawa, Balagtas, Bulacan, and were later taken to Camp Crame, Quezon City. Rowena was shown a warrant of arrest for trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives, the same warrant used against Courage member Juan Alexander Reyes on June 2, 2018.

Courage members, including the Rosales couple, previously filed a writ of amparo before the Supreme Court in August 2015, asking protection after a series of threats and surveillance. The Court gave due course to the petition.

“The Duterte regime is tying up loose ends left by past repressive governments. Taking off from the atrocious handiwork of previous regimes, foremost that of Marcos’, Arroyo’s and Aquino’s, Duterte has escalated attacks against rights defenders. Many of such violations are orchestrated by the police and the military in line with the Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Action (IACLA) in particular, and counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan in general,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay, adding that at least 129 rights defenders and political dissenters have already been arrested and filed with trumped-up charges since IACLA’s creation in October 2017.

During the course of the couple’s arrest, Rowena recalled that she and Oliver were pulled off their vehicle and were immediately handcuffed. Rowena said she saw 10 men in civilian clothing, all with masks over their faces and caps on their head; it was later revealed that perpetrators are officers of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police. Rowena was immediately thrown at the back of a black vehicle, her eyes covered with a sleeping mask and a handkerchief while earphones were plugged on her ears.

Oliver, on the other hand, was boarded in a separate car. He insisted on coming along to ensure his wife’s safety. The Rosales couple was then brought to the CIDG office at Camp Crame, Quezon City; they arrived at around 10:30 in the evening of August 11. 

Questions were initially directed at Rowena. The police showed a diagram, allegedly of the “National GE Board, CPP-NPA”, with names of Courage organizers and officers. When CIDG officers saw Oliver’s name in the diagram, he was also immediately arrested.

On August 12, Rowena and Oliver were summoned to the investigators’ area. On the table were two guns, one grenade bullets and bags. Oliver, at the time of their arrest, did not carry any bag. Rowena only brought a small sling bag, certainly not able to carry the firearms that they are accused of owning. They were made to sit on the table while photos of them were being taken.

“This is another case of the CIDG’s scriptwriting and brazen planting of evidence. This is not the first instance of them showing their skullduggery and disregard for human rights, nor will it be the last. The CIDG is trained at political persecution. They have become experts at planting evidence and filing trumped-up charges; experts at making guns appear where there are none. For repressive and fascist regimes such as Duterte’s, they are awarded with applause and emboldened to commit more violations,” Palabay said, citing the case of fellow Courage member Alexander Reyes, Kilusang Mayo Uno organizer Maojo Maga and National Democratic Front Consultant Rafael Baylosis as among the recent cases showcasing the CIDG’s wizardry.

“We demand the immediate release of the Rosales couple and the immediate end to the filing of trumped-up charges against rights defenders and members of progressive organizations,” concluded Palabay.