Karapatan demands immediate release of 13 rights defenders, dev’t workers arrested in General Santos City

Karapatan decried the arrest of thirteen human rights defenders and church development workers on the evening of July 4, 2018 in General Santos City, during a program consultation of volunteers and partners of the Iglesia Filipino Independiente- Visayas Mindanao Regional Office for Development (IFI-VIMROD) on peasant and Lumad issues at the Mother Francisca Spirituality Center in Radasa St., Brgy. Lagao.

According to IFI-VIMROD, the rights defenders arrested were headed by representatives of the IFI Diocese of Libertad who were conducting a project assessment, as part of the turn-over of IFI-VIMROD Integrated development program to the diocese. While the said meeting was ongoing, elements of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-Philippine National Police (CIDG-PNP) and military barged inside the center and told the group that they were serving a warrant of arrest for three (3) persons, whose names were unknown to the participants in the meeting. The police alleged that the participants were the ones named in the said warrant, so they brought all of them to the PNP Regional Headquarters at Camp Fermin Lira.

Among those arrested were Teresita Naul, Karapatan National Council member for Northern Mindanao; Aldeem Yanez of the IFI; Datu Jomorito Guaynon, Chairperson of the Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization; Ireneo Udarbe of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas; Vennel Chenfoo, previously the 3rd nominee of the Kabataan Partylist; Kristine Cabardo of the League of Filipino Students; and Roger Plana, an IFI-VIMROD volunteer. Charges of obstruction for justice were filed against eleven in the inquest proceedings yesterday afternoon, while the charges against two of them are still unknown. The women are currently detained at the Police Station 4 in Nuñez St., Brgy. City Heights, while the men were detained at the Police Station 1 in Pendatun Avenue, Brgy. Dadiangas North.  

“This recent arrest of rights defenders and development workers in Mindanao is a testament to the absence of respect for human and people’s rights under Duterte’s martial law in Mindanao. Civilians, including activists and church workers, are being victimized, while government and military officials trumpet their false claims that there are no human rights abuses. Clearly, these lies are being exposed as the Duterte regime’s all-out war rages against the people of Mindanao,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.

Karapatan documented at least 986 victims of illegal arrests in Mindanao, since martial law was imposed last May 23, 2017 up to June 30, 2018. At least 95 have been detained. Majority of them are peasants and Lumad. All of them were charged with fabricated criminal cases.

“Even development workers and trade union organizers based in Metro Manila have been illegally arrested on false charges filed in Mindanao courts. Apparently, these courts have increasingly become factory mills of trumped up charges, especially when martial law was declared and when the Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Action (IACLA) was set up,” Palabay said.

Benito Quilloy and Rita Espinoza, development workers of the Assert Socio-Economic Initiatives Network (ASCENT), were arrested in October 2017 based on fabricated charges against them in Caraga. Trade union organizers Juan Alexander Reyes and Marklen Maojo Maga were also arrested, in June 2017 and February 2017 respectively, on trumped-up charges against them also in the Caraga courts.

“Karapatan demands the immediate release of Karapatan National Council member Teresita Naul and the 12 twelve other rights defenders and development workers, who are now collectively known as GenSan13. Charges against them should be withdrawn or dropped. Their right to conduct human rights and development work, their right to association and against illegal arrest and detention should be upheld. We demand an end to martial law in Mindanao and for the Duterte regime to stop its attacks against defenders and the Filipino people,” Palabay concluded.

For reference: Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, 09173162831

Karapatan Public Information Desk, 09189790580