Militants condemn wholesale arrest of five activists and infant in Eastern Visayas

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Several militant organizations have condemned the “wholesale arrest” of five activists and an infant in Tacloban City, in Eastern Visayas region.

The militants identified the arrested as Marissa Cabaljao, a leader of the People’s Surge group of victims of typhoon Yolanda, Frenchie Mae Cumpio, a community journalist of Eastern Vista, Alexander Abinguna of human rights group Katungod Sinirangan Bisayas, Mira Legion of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Eastern Visayas and Marielle Domequil of Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP).

The five were arrested after a raid on their shared office in Barangay 77, Tacloban City between 1:00 a.m. to 2:30 a.m., on February 7. The raid was conducted by elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) led by a certain Lt. Col. Pedere.

According to initial statements by those arrested, police brought them out of their rooms and planted at least two handguns, 1 machine gun and materials for an improvised explosive device.

A simultaneous raid was also conducted in the staff house of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Eastern Visayas and Eastern Vista in Calanipawan, Tacloban City, where Frenchie Mae Cumpio of Eastern Vista and Mariell Domanquill of RMP were arrested. Guns and ammunition were also planted in their rooms.

According to initial reports, the raiding teams composed of 50 to 70 combined elements of the PNP and Crime Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) barged into the offices of peoples’ organizations Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Anakpawis Partylist and Katungod Sinirangan Visayas-Karapatan. The offices of Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and Eastern Vista alternative media group, as well as of People Surge, an organization of the survivors of the deadly typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) that struck the Philippines in 2014, were also raided.

The raiding teams of the PNP-CIDG reportedly forced the occupants to get out of the premises and planted evidence including firearms and explosives. The search warrants were only shown to the office occupants after they were ordered out of the premises. The simultaneous incidents in Tacloban City happened at around 1:00 a.m.

“We condemn to the highest degree the latest attack on democracy and human rights of the people of Eastern Visayas, by the Duterte regime that reeks of totalitarianism, averse of criticism and opposition. We demand their immediate and unconditional release, and we call for a national indignation on this incident,” former Anakpawis Party-list lawmaker Ariel Casilao said.

Casilao urged the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the committees on human rights of both chambers of congress, to address this added incident of systematic attack on legal and democratic right to freedom of expression, to organize associations, peaceful assembly and due process.

“Di malayo sa mga magnanakaw itong kapulisan na umaatake sa gitna ng gabi. They swooped in while everyone were asleep to perform their devilish deeds. Again, fake evidence were planted to justify the raid, arrest, and detention of government critics,” said Bayan Muna Representative Ferdinand Gaite.

“These policemen, this government, recognizes no rule of law, no democracy, no space for dissent, only blind subservience. If you disagree, protest, and stand for human rights and social justice, then you will be villified, arrested, or worst, killed,” Gaite added.

“These raids and arrests mark a new wave in the government’s crackdown against all its critics, especially against the progressive left which took intensified blows last year in Negros, Mindanao and Manila. Duterte is targeting everyone who stand in his path such as activists, religious figures, political opposition, and even media outfits who refuse to toe the line,” said the Makabayan bloc solon.

Women’s rights organization GABRIELA condemned the simultaneous raids and planting of “evidence” conducted in offices of peoples’ organizations and the arrest of the five activist and leaders of peoples’ organizations, including a one-year old baby, in Tacloban City.

GABRIELA strongly condemned this recent wave of brazen acts of terrorism by state security forces carried out in Eastern Visayas, a region heavily militarized following President Rodrigo Duterte’s Memorandum Order 32 that placed Samar, Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental and Bicol under a “state of national emergency”, and which activists and peoples’ organizations have been demanding to be scrapped for the widespread human rights violations it has since spawned.

For their part, militant group Karapatan denounced Gestapo-like raids of nongovernmental offices in Tacloban City .

The five, with Marissa’s baby, are currently detained at the Palo PNP Municipal Police Station.

The Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) also strongly condemned the raid of the new nationalist nationalist office of Eastern Visayas and illegal detention of the five leaders who claimed to be rural missionaries of the Philippines. They were brought to the Palo municipal police station. The raid was conducted with a search warrant released by the Tacloban Regional Trial Court.

“The police again have issued a questionable warrant without basis, conducted illegal raid, and arrest of human rights advocates and even a media member. The police have also planted evidence that they will surely be used for the case,” said the KMU in their statement./Stacy Ang

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