Duterte gov’t attempts to muffle dissent through arrest of activists, rights defenders - Karapatan

Karapatan today lambasted the recent arrest of activists Ma. Theresa Cabales, staff and organizer of Alliance of Concerned Teachers, and Rafael Couichie Francis of Bayan-Southern Tagalog as “part of the ongoing attempts to silence the voices of dissent in the Philippines.”

On June 8, 2018, Cabales was arrested by two operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group - Philippine National Police in Iloilo City. She was shown a warrant of arrest for rebellion signed by Judge Judith Orendain-Tonogbanua of the Regional Trial Court Branch 21, Mambusao, Capiz. She was brought to the PNP Regional Headquarters in Camp Martin Delgado, Iloilo City.

Police Regional Director John Bulalakaw of PNP Region 6 presented Cabales, in a press conference as an alleged member of the medical staff under the Communist Party of the Philippines and “a ranking member of the Communist movement.” Bulalakaw said her arrest “is a big blow to the organization.” He said Cabales is facing charges of rebellion and murder. She was released though on the same day, when she posted bail of PhP40,000.

On June 12, members of Bayan-Southern Tagalog held a lightning rally in time for the Philippine Independence Day speech of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte. Just as the protesters shouted “Traydor! Huwad na kalayaan! (Traitor! What we have is fake freedom!),” calling out Duterte, Francis was arrested by elements of the PNP in Kawit, Cavite. He was brought to the Kawit Police Station, and eventually to the prosecutor’s office to face charges of Violation of Article 153 of the Revised Penal Code (tumultuous disturbance). He is still detained up to this writing.

“Basic rights and fundamental freedoms such as organizing of teachers and the exercise of the freedom of speech and of peaceful assembly are being criminalized. This is why nearly a thousand individuals, many are human rights defenders and at least 503 are detained, face trumped up criminal charges,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Secretary General.

Karapatan said that “Duterte is fundamentally no different from previous regimes as he continues the repressive tradition of Marcos, the two Aquinos, and Macapagal-Arroyo.”

“Through the use of the legal system, Duterte persists in promoting injustice through the military, police, Department of Justice and the courts. Especially with the comeback of the government’s inter-agency group that systematizes and concocts fabricated cases against defenders and political dissenters, this policy and practice has been blatantly used to go after the regime’s critics and movements for social change. The Filipino people should continue to resist all forms of repression and defend and uphold people’s rights amid Durterte’s fascist rule,” Palabay concluded. 

For reference: Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, 09173162831

Karapatan Public Information Desk, 09189790580