Four women peasant advocates arrested, possibly tortured in Nueva Ecija

Four women peasant advocates were illegally arrested by operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), Philippine National Police and elements of the 7th Infantry Division in Sitio Bangkusay, Brgy. Talabutab Norte, Natividad, Nueva Ecija on October 13, 2018. Yolanda Diamsay Ortiz, 46, and Eulalia Ladesma, 44, member of Anakpawis and Gabriela Women’s Partylist respectively, Edzel Emocling, 23, and Rachel Galario, 20, both youth activists and peasant advocates, are confirmed to be in the custody of the CIDG in their office at the Old Capitol building at Cabanatuan City. Ortiz and Ladesma were badly beaten by their captors, with visible bruises on their faces.

The relatives of Ladesma and Ortiz were able to visit them on October 14; Karapatan paralegals were not allowed to have access to the four women. According to the daughter of Eulalia Ladesma, her mother recounted that she was taken by her hair and was forced to drop to the ground when the CIDG operatives found her. While on the ground, Eulalia was kicked several times and her hands tied thereafter. The perpetrators were forcing Ladesma to admit to being “Mariz”. The daughter also relayed that she also saw Ortiz with a bruised face. Ortiz’s left eye was swollen and there are hand marks on her neck due to strangulation. Ladesma and Ortiz attested that every time they didn’t answer questions, they would be beaten badly. As of this writing, Karapatan is still awaiting further information on the incident. 

“Karapatan strongly condemns the illegal arrest, detention, and torture undergone by the four women human rights defenders in Nueva Ecija. This is indefensible. This is precisely what happens when you have security forces that have no respect for human rights. This is the kind of police and military that we have – uniformed men with no integrity and not the slightest respect for women and their rights,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.

Incidentally, October 15 is Rural Peasant Women’s Day, a day that commemorates the struggles of women peasants and their advocates alike.

Palabay also lamented how these abuses continue despite the ratification of laws that explicitly prohibit such violations, including the Anti-Torture Law of 2009. This is on top of legislation and policies that seek to protect women from all forms of violence, including the Magna Carta of Women. Palabay also reiterated that a bill which aims to protect human rights defenders remain pending in Congress.

“How can we expect these laws to safeguard the rights of the people and discourage these violations when the government itself condones such crimes? Under the Duterte government, the rights situation in the country has evidently worsened, with rights abuses justified under the blanket label of “terrorist”, “NPA sympathizers, or “enemies of the State,” said Palabay, noting that there has been a spike in the number of arrests of activists on the basis of trumped-up charges and the an increase of harassment cases against rights defenders – all alleged to be “rebels”.

The 7th Infantry Division released a statement on the incident, tagging the four as “rebels” conspiring against the government.

The Karapatan official raised the possibility of the four women being tortured, physically and psychologically, to force them admit to the government’s fictitious narrative, particularly in the context of “ Armed Forces of the Philippines’ obsession on a supposed ouster plot against the government.” She added: “We have no doubt the spin doctors in the military will use this opportunity to forward their deluded narrative, even at the expense of torturing women! This is a shameful act that truly exposes the atrocities of the military and the police. All of those involved should immediately be held accountable.”

“We call for the immediate release of the Ortiz, Ladesma, Amocling and Galario. We condemn this continuing spate of attacks against activists and rights defenders. This reminds us that torture is very much a part of the military and police’s practice, despite national and international laws and agreements that prohibit its use. The point is crystal clear: Our military and police force have no credibility and they are the number one violator of human rights in the country. However, we remind them of a once seemingly invincible general named Jovito Palparan who is now convicted. Along with the victims and their relatives, we will pursue justice and see to it that perpetrators will be sent to jail,” Palabay concluded.

Reference: Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, 0917-3162831

Karapatan Public Information Desk, 0918-9790580