Two development workers illegally arrested in Negros Occidental by CIDG and ISAFP operatives

Dear friends,

The environment for development workers and human rights defenders to continue their work and advocacy is worsening at an alarming rate. With the recent creation of the Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Action (IACLA) last month and previous verbal threats by the President and his mouthpieces on using the Human Security Act of 2007 to jail leaders of progressive organizations, the Duterte regime is utilizing all ploys to criminalize dissenters and genuine opposition who have criticized his anti-people policies. 

Karapatan and Ascent condemns this recent affront to the work and advocacy of development workers who question the neoliberal framework peddled by the Duterte regime. Let us amplify the call to immediately release Jeremy Ang and Rita Espinoza, and all political prisoners who were jailed on the basis of trumped-up charges. The Duterte regime is openly and systematically targeting not only development workers, but all advocates who dare question the violations and fascism perpetrated by State security forces. These fascist attacks on the Filipino people merit a strong, loud and responding response – a call to action to resist #DuterTyranny and defeat yet another rising dictatorship. 

 

ACCOUNT OF THE INCIDENTS

 

On October 19, 2017, Jeremy Ang, convenor and senior consultant of Assert Socio-Economic Initiatives Network (ASCENT), and his staff Rita Espinoza, were arrested by elements of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) in Kabankalan, Negros City.

Ang and Espinoza arrived at La Carlota, Negros Occidental for a two-day consultation with the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), a partner organization of ASCENT. Ascent is a non-government organization advocating for economic, social, and cultural rights (ESCR) or the right to development. It was primarily established to campaign for the defense of socio-economic initiatives of people and its member NGOs, amidst the series of attacks against them by alleged state security forces. Among the programs of its member organizations include: humanitarian aid, sustainable agriculture, appropriate technology, cooperatives, schools for indigenous peoples, health services, and community-based disaster risk management. Ascent also provides technical assistance in the conceptualization of socio-economic projects for people’s organizations.

The consultation with NFSW was held on October 14-15, 2017. Ang’s team was consulted by NFSW on the issues and situation of sugar workers in Negros, such as the adverse effects of government importation of high fructose corn syrup on sugar workers. The consultation also included workshops and a planning on the campaign of sugar workers for a 50% wage increase and with regard to the existing pakyaw rate.

After the consultation, Ang and his companions stayed at La Carlota until October 17 for a post-consultation meeting with NFSW. On October 19 at around 10 a.m., Ang, his staff, as well as his fellow development management consultant who arrived two days prior, left La Carlota and boarded a blue Avanza vehicle. The vehicle was rented by Espinoza.  They were on their way to Dumaguete, where they were supposed to separate and leave for their respective destination.

At around 12:45pm, the group stopped by a native restaurant in Kabankalan to have lunch. At 1:30 pm, when they were about to leave the restaurant and return to the car, around ten (10) armed men wearing white t-shirts printed with CIDG suddenly appeared outside the restaurant – some of them were wearing shorts and masks. CIDG operatives pointed their guns at the victims while one of the perpetrators proceeded towards Ang.

Anticipating the armed man’s move to accost Ang, Ang’s companion and fellow development management consultant attempted to grab Ang’s arms but lost her grip when one of the armed men pointed a gun at her and ordered her to drop to the ground. Afterwards, Ang was handcuffed and was forcibly boarded in one of the CIDG vehicles.

Rita Espinoza was also forced inside a separate vehicle, her hands also handcuffed with zip or plastic ties. Both Ang and Espinoza were blindfolded.

Espinoza was loosely blindfolded and was able to see the vehicle where Ang was taken. She attested that the car’s plate number is AAG 9850. No warrant of arrest was shown to Ang and Espinoza when they were taken by the CIDG operatives.

During the commotion, many customers at Ting Ting’s restaurant witnessed the incident. Meanwhile, the driver of the vehicle rented by Ang’s team asked help from the management of the restaurant.  He reported the said incident as a kidnapping case prompting the restaurant’s management to call the police.

A few minutes later, two policemen came and then boarded the Avanza vehicle. They asked the driver of Ang’s group to tail the CIDG vehicles which carried Ang and Espinoza. Ang’s fellow development consultant also came with the police.

Upon reaching the Himamaylan City police station, the CIDG vehicles were stopped by the police. However, members of the Himamaylan police station were seemingly advised by the CIDG not to interfere, alleging that the incident was a legitimate operation. At this point, the policemen inside the Avanza vehicle stopped pursuing the CIDG operatives.

Ang and Espinoza were brought to the Police Regional Office - Negros Island Region at Camp Alfredo Montelibano Sr. in Bacolod City. They were separately detained inside the CIDG office where their mugshots and fingerprints were taken. Ang was solitarily confined inside a small cell while Espinoza was handcuffed inside a separate room. All their personal belongings and valuables, including their maintenance medicines were seized and were not returned until after Ang and Ezpinosa’s lawyers insisted.

The two were later charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Allegedly, Ang has a warrant of arrest for murder and multiple attempted murder case issued on April 2017 by RTC Branch 7 in Agusan del Sur. On the other hand, Espinoza is accused by the CIDG and the AFP of arson and murder.

Atty. Cesar Biloria of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) immediately responded, after being informed and requested by Karapatan, and went to Camp Montelibano at around 7pm on October 19, but he was not allowed to talk to his clients.

The following day, October 20, Atty. Biloria and Atty. Ben Ramos, also from NUPL, were able to briefly talk and consult with their clients. On the same day, at around 4pm, Ang and Espinoza were brought to Kabankalan for inquest. As there was allegedly no available prosecutor, they were returned to Camp Montelibano.

On October 21, at around 11am, Atty. Biloria and Atty. Maria Sol Taule, Karapatan Legal Counsel, visited Ang and Espinoza. They were given only 30 minutes to confer with their clients. The lawyers also asked for copies of alleged warrants of arrest, but the CIDG failed to furnish copies to lawyers, saying that they do not have the warrants in their possession.

Before they left, the lawyers also told the CIDG that they are the official lawyers of Ang and Espinoza and should be informed when the inquest proceedings would be conducted. However, at around 4pm on the same day, Ang and Espinoza were surreptitiously brought to Kabankalan without their lawyers being informed. There, they were subjected to inquest proceedings without the assistance of any lawyer. The two refused to sign papers, insisting that they were not the persons the CIDG and the military alleged them to be and that the .45 caliber and grenade allegedly seized in their car were all planted.

At around 11pm, the two were again clandestinely taken out of Camp Montelibano, without notice to their lawyers. They were flown to Camp Crame in Quezon City where they are currently detained. PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa paraded Ang and Espinoza in front of the media, alleging the two as Louie Martinez and Aurora Cayon who were said to be high ranking officials of the Communist Party of the Philippines- New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

According to ASCENT, the arrest of Ang and Ezpinosa is the latest of attacks against development workers who have worked alongside marginalized sectors. Among the cases of attacks against development and humanitarian workers include the illegal arrest by the CIDG of Rogina Quilop in 2011, who was then the Administrative Officer of the Center for People’s Resources and Services, an NGO based in Bacolod City, for an alleged arson case. Recently, six women development workers from Cordillera were also victims of trumped-up charges of frustrated murder and multiple attempted murder. They are Sarah Abellon-Alikes and Sherry Mae Soledad from the Katinnulong dagiti Umili ti Amianan-Regional Development Center (KADUAMI-RDC NL); Joanne Villanueva from the Cordillera Women’s Education, Action, Research Center (CWEARC); Rachel Mariano from the Cordillera Health, Education, Services and Training in the Cordillera (CHESTCORE); Asia Isabella Gepte, a convenor of Binnadang; and Shirley Ann Angiwot, a member of Innabuyog-Gabriela.

 

Recommended actions:

 

Send letters, emails or fax messages calling for:

1.       The immediate investigation of the separate incidents to be conducted by an independent body; 

2.      The immediate release of Jeremy Ang, Rita Espinoza, and all political prisoners illegally arrested by State security forces on the basis of trumped-up charges; 

3.      An end to the targetting, harassment, and intimidation of development workers and human rights defenders;

4.      The immediate abolition of the Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Action (IACLA), a body created by the PNP and the AFP, which further legitimizes and systematizes the political persecution and illegal arrest and detention of rights defenders and development workers working alongside marginalized sectors;

5.      An end to the Duterte regime’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan which encourages State security forces to threaten, harass, arbitrarily and illegally arrest development workers tagged as ‘enemies of the State’;

6.      The Philippine Government to continue the peace talks and build towards the advancement of a Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), which includes the issue of free land distribution to farmers and farm workers;

7.      The Philippine Government to pursue its commitments under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) which includes the right to freedom of thought and expression, freedom of conscience, political and religious beliefs and practices and the right not to be punished or held accountable for the exercise of these rights, and the right to free speech, press, association and assembly; and

8.      The Philippine Government to adhere and respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all major Human Rights instruments that it is a party and signatory.

 

You may send your communications to:

 

H.E. Rodrigo Duterte

President of the Republic

Malacañang Palace,

JP Laurel St., San Miguel

Manila Philippines

Voice: (+632) 564 1451 to 80

Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968

E-mail: op@president.gov.ph or send message through http://president.gov.ph/contact-us/

 

Hon. Jesus Dureza

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process

Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)

7th Floor Agustin Building I

Emerald Avenue

Pasig City 1605

Voice:+63 (2) 636 0701 to 066

Fax:+63 (2) 638 2216

Email: stqd.papp@opapp.gov.ph, feedback@opapp.net

 

Ret. Maj. Gen. Delfin Lorenzana

Secretary, Department of National Defense

Room 301 DND Building, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo,

E. de los Santos Avenue, Quezon City

Voice:+63(2) 911-6193 / 911-0488 / 982-5600

Fax:+63(2) 982-5600

Email: info@dnd.gov.ph, webmaster@dnd.gov.ph

 

Hon. Vitaliano Aguirre

Secretary, Department of Justice

Padre Faura St., Manila

Direct Line 521-8344; 5213721

Trunkline:  523-84-81 loc.214

Fax: (+632) 521-1614

Email: communications@doj.gov.ph

 

Hon. Jose Luis Martin Gascon

Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights

SAAC Bldg., UP Complex, Commonwealth Avenue

Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines

Voice: (+632) 928-5655, 926-6188

Fax: (+632) 929 0102

Email: chairgascon.chr@gmail.com

 

Please send us a copy of your email/mail/fax to the above-named government officials, to our address below:

 

 

URGENT ACTION Prepared by:

KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights

National Office

2/F Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin cor Matatag Sts., Brgy. Central,

Diliman, Quezon City 1100 PHILIPPINES

Voice/Fax: (+632) 435 4146

Email: urgentaction@karapatan.org; karapatan@karapatan.org

 

Website: www.karapatan.org

 

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