Karapatan welcomes dismissal of trumped-up charges vs Makabayan4, calls for abolition of IACLA

On August 8, 2018, Judge Tese Wenceslao of the Palayan Regional Trial Court Branch 40 quashed the warrant of arrest against former Bayan Muna representatives Satur Ocampo and Teddy Casino, former Gabriela representative and National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) Secretary Liza Maza, and former Anakpawis representative and former Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Rafael Mariano. Trumped-up murder charges against the #Makabayan4 were likewise dismissed. 
 
“Finally, we hear some good news. This victory, although partial, is vindication for the four who were unjustly accused and subjected to political persecution. Minions of the Duterte regime even declared a bounty for the four, intent on framing them as criminals despite all the evidence proving otherwise. We welcome this decision but we remain vigilant for other forms of attacks against the #Makabayan4 and other human rights defenders,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.
 
“The release of warrants of arrest vs Ocampo, Maza, Casino, and Mariano show how easy it is for the government to subvert the law and use it to their advantage. This case is indicative of how many more times our indigenous and peasant communities are made vulnerable to these repressive scheme of illegally arresting leaders, followed-up with the filing of trumped-up cases. This is the aftermath of the Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Action (IACLA), a group manned by the AFP and PNP and specifically tasked to intensify the government’s legal offensive against rights defenders and political dissenters,” Palabay further stated, adding that since IACLA’s creation in October 2017, at least 129 rights defenders and political dissenters have already been arrested on the basis of trumped-up charges. Most recent were the arrest of Rowena and Oliver Rosales on August 11, 2018. Both were former members and organizers of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE).
 
Palabay also mentioned the proscription petition filed by the Department of Justice in February 2018, which tagged more than 600 names as alleged members of the Communist Party of the Philippines. She called this “an underhanded maneuver, carefully and deviously wielding the law to mask repression and political persecution.”
 
The Karapatan official emphasized that this political persecution is methodical and systematic. She reiterated that the formation of the IACLA follows the Arroyo regime’s Inter-Agency Legal Affairs Group (IALAG) - the latter being responsible for the illegal arrest of thousands. “The IACLA, just as the IALAG has done, sets off a witch hunt, primarily motivated by the government’s determination to manipulate the law and overturn it to become a tool for intensified repression,” she said.
 
Palabay emphasized that “IACLA is a dangerous animal, and it has already set out to hunt its prey. What the Makabayan 4 had undergone was a clear form of harassment, a warning signal to many rights defenders that the Duterte regime has absolute power to abuse. Picking up from the atrocious handiwork of previous regimes, Duterte and his state forces have managed a brazen display of unbridled fascism.”
 
“We call for the immediate abolition of the IACLA, and an end to the political persecution orchestrated by the Duterte regime against human rights defenders and political dissenters,” Palabay concluded.