Eleven human rights workers arrested after Duterte’s threat to crack down on progressive groups

“Since Duterte’s threat last Saturday, November 18, to crackdown on progressive organizations, eleven (11) human rights (HR) workers – 9 from Batangas and 2 from Western Mindanao region – have been illegally arrested and detained. Mass arrest of members of an organization is fast becoming a trend in the PNP and AFP’s conduct of illegal arrests; It has become as brazen and as arbitrary. The authorities again claim that those arrested were members of the New People’s Army (NPA), a lie relegated as among the oldest trick in the PNP and AFP’s “how to get away with illegal arrest and human rights violations” rulebook. Whatever the State maneuver, there is no denying the systematic attack against HR workers under the Duterte regime,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay. 

Yesterday, on November 20, 2017, 9 members of the quick reaction team (QRT) led by BHRA-Karapatan were illegally arrested by members of the Philippine National Police and Philippine Air Force 730th Combat Group in Nasugbu, Batangas. The nine individuals were members of farmers’ groups Habagat and the Samahang ng Pinagkaisang Damdamin ng Brgy. Quisumbing from Calaca and Lian, Batangas, respectively, and the jeepney driver, who, together with 20 other members of the QRT, were on their way to Brgy. Utod to monitor human rights violations against civilians amid the ongoing military operations of the PAF against members of the NPA in Nasugbu.

The 9 arrested in Batangas are Leonardo Delos Reyes, 43; Carlos Sanoza, 62; Josefino Castillano, 50; Peping Sacdalan, 67; Robert Hernandez; Jocelyn Cabadin, 44; Jennelyn Bayani, 30; Orlan Cabadin, 19; and Anthony Bañaga. As of this writing, the group is set to be brought to a regional trial court in Batangas to undergo inquest proceedings.

The Karapatan secretary general reiterated that this has intensified with the creation of the Inter-agency Committee on Legal Action (IACLA). “With the AFP and PNP’s recent creation of the IACLA, political persecution and illegal arrests have intensified against members and leaders of human rights groups and other progressive organizations. More increasingly in the Duterte regime, legal processes are subverted and instead directed against the people. There is a systematic targeting of human rights workers, and mechanisms like IACLA have ensured that this form of repression is legitimized by the courts,” she added.

On November 18, a couple was illegally arrested in Pagadian City. Senando Jacutin, 47, peasant organizer of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) in Western Mindanao, and Rosario Tabanao, 47, a staff of Karapatan Western Mindanao, were arrested by composite elements of the CIDG Region 9 and the 1st Infantry Tabak Division of the AFP.  Authorities are set to file trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives against the couple, based on planted evidence. Jacutin and Tabanao are currently detained at the Pagadian City Police Station and are set to undergo inquest proceedings today.

“Karapatan condemns this blatant attack on the people’s right to monitor human rights violations and the brazen arbitrariness and illegality of the recent series of arrests. How then can human rights and humanitarian organizations function and aid civilians amidst armed conflict when rights of human rights workers are being curtailed? Human rights workers, in the conduct of their work, have already one foot in the grave. Unfortunately for human rights advocates, the Duterte regime and its State security forces seem determined to eliminate all who dare to speak out against repression and rights abuses. However, in their pursuit against us, they have ultimately proven and exposed their fascist character,” Palabay concluded.

 

 

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