Two peasant leaders arrested in Southern Tagalog

Karapatan condemns the illegal arrest of two farmers, Arnold Albarillo and Mylene Santua, in two separate incidents in the Southern Tagalog Region. The arrests came days after spouses Rowena and Oliver Rosales, former organizers of public sector union Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE), were abducted by operatives in Bulacan and taken to Camp Crame, Quezon City. All four are now facing trumped-up charges filed against them.
 
“There is a continuity of repression and injustice from one regime to the next. These are not isolated cases, as some of these violations have started way back in the administrations of Arroyo and Aquino. There is a thread of repression carefully weaved by those in government -- a thread that keeps on getting longer,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay, noting that the Rosales couple already underwent surveillance by state agents in August 2015 while farmer Arnold Albarillo’s family have been systematically targeted since Arroyo’s regime.
 
On August 11, 2018, Arnold Albarillo, farmer, barangay official and resident of Brgy. Calsapa, San Teodoro, Oriental Mindoro, was invited by two men in civilian clothing inside the Provincial Public Safety Battalion in Brgy. Tacligan, San Teodoro. Albarillo was interrogated for two hours before being transferred to the PNP San Teodoro station, on trumped-up cases of double murder, frustrated murder and rebellion filed against him in Gumaca, Quezon; said cases were filed last 2014.
 
Albarillo’s parents and his brother were tortured and killed in April 2002, during the terror reign of then Col. Jovito Palparan in the region. Manuela and Expedito, both coordinators of Bayan Muna, were accused of being members of the New People’s Army, and were killed. Armando Albarillo, Arnold’s brother, then secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan - Timog Katagalugan (BAYAN-TK) was shot by elements of the 74th IBPA in 2012.
 
Also, on the afternoon of August 15, former spokesperson of the Coco Levy Fund Ibalik sa Amin (CLIAM) group, Mylene Santua, was also illegally arrested by elements of the police in Brgy. Pagsanghan, San Francisco, Quezon. CLIAM has been calling for the return of more than 200 billion worth of funds to coconut farmers. Santua is currently pregnant and was undergoing prenatal care procedure when she was accosted by the police. She is currently detained at a camp in Brgy. Malamig, San Francisco, Quezon.
 
Palabay recalls the arrests of Maria Miradel Torres in June 2014 and Andrea Rosal in March 2014, as both were pregnant when they were taken by operatives. Rosal’s daughter died on May 18, 2014, shortly after she gave birth. The baby suffered from persistent pulmonary hypertension, neonatal pneumonia, and oxygen deficiency in the blood. Torres, on the other hand, gave birth in November 2014. She pleaded for temporary release to nurse her son but this was rejected by the court.
 
“The Duterte regime, like his predecessors, has a reputation for utter and gross disregard for people’s rights, especially that of women. We fear a repetition of the tragedy and loss experienced by both Torres and Rosal, as the same conditions that led to their ordeal remain very much the same,” said Palabay.
 
The Karapatan leader linked this recent arrest to the formation and mobilization of the Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Action (IACLA), a committee manned by both the AFP and the PNP and specifically tasked to file charges against activists and members of progressive organizations falsely labeled as “enemies of the State.” Since IACLA’s creation in October 2017, 129 individuals have already been arrested and are currently detained on the basis of trumped-up charges. As of June 2018, there are already 503 political prisoners in the country.
 
“We again call for the abolition of the IACLA. The IACLA, inspired by the same task force created during the time of Arroyo, is a state policy that legitimizes political persecution against rights defenders and local community leaders. We demand the immediate release of the Rosales couple, Arnold Arbarillo, Mylene Santua, and all political prisoners. The Duterte regime is deliberately continuing the thread of repression, even taking it to an unprecedented degree,” concluded Palabay.