Mindanao has been a factory mill of trumped-up criminal charges against activists in the island as well as in the rest of the country, militant groups said on Wednesday.
“The Duterte administration has patently practiced such forms of legal offensives against those who express opposition to its fascist and anti-poor measures, especially in Mindanao where martial law was formally in place for two years,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat and Defend Mindanao co-convener, during a press conference and meeting at the Commission on Human Rights on Wednesday, February 12.
Defend Mindanao, a newly-formed campaign network in defense of Mindanao human rights defenders and development workers facing judicial harassment, appealed to Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Chito Gascon and members of the commission to immediately investigate and facilitate remedies for the embattled activists.
The Mindanaoan partylist leader further said that “the recent arrest of Nestor Amora, a businessman and former barangay captain, in Surigao City and Engr. Jennefer Aguhob, a law student and human rights worker, in Oroquieta City, and the release of warrants of arrests against at least 22 peasant and indigenous people’s leaders, journalists, teachers/educators, human rights defenders, health workers, women’s rights activists, religious and humanitarian workers in CARAGA and Northern Mindanao are proof that de facto martial law continues to exist in Mindanao.”
Meanwhile, Cullamat delivered a privilege speech condemning the continuing repression and illegal arrests of activists in Tacloban City.
House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate also delivered a privilege speech condemning the continuing repression of activists in Northern Minadanao and Caraga and the arrest of Aguhob from Western Mindanao region.
A member of activist rights group Karapatan was arrested in her residence in Oroquieta City, Misamis Occidental by joint forces of the police and military on February 5.
The military believes Jennefer Aguhob, 40, to be a finance, liaison officer of Sub-Regional Military Area II (Monterosa) of the New People’s Army (NPA).
According to Western Mindanao Command spokesman Major Arvin Encinas, a Dipolog City court issued a warrant of arrest against Aguhob for the charge of murder.
WestMinCom chief Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana lauded the forces who arrested Aguhob.
“I attribute this achievement to the strong collaboration among officers and men of the Joint Task Force ZamPeLan and the Philippine National Police. My snappy salute to all of them. With your selfless service, our people will certainly live peacefully and happily,” Sobejana said.
Meanwhile, human rights group Karapatan condemned the arrest of Aguhob, who, according to the group, was its national council member from Region XIII.
Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said Aguhob was not even aware of the murder case filed against her.
“Prior to her arrest, Aguhob had no knowledge that there was such a complaint filed against her and others. She was deprived of her right to due process when she was arrested based on the said complaint,” Palabay said.
Palabay claimed that Aguhob had also experienced several threats and harassment over the past two years, saying that Aguhob, who is an engineer and a recent law graduate, was removed from the city’s engineer office after some military personnel supposedly talked to her superiors.
Karapatan is demanding Aguhob’s immediate release, adding that filing trumped-up charges against activists is the government’s way to “stifle dissent.”
Aguhob was placed under the custody of Misamis Occidental Provincial Police Office for proper disposition./Stacy Ang