“Evidence” seized from raids, mass arrests in Bacolod all planted by operatives amid gov’t bid to silence and discredit critics

Human rights group Karapatan strongly decried the coordinated raids and mass arrests conducted against activists and progressive organizations in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental and in Manila on Thursday, October 31. The rights group asserted that the evidence allegedly gathered from the raids were planted, and were mere “Halloween dirty tricks” by the Duterte regime to discredit and silence its critics amid growing public discontent on the regime’s anti-people policies. “Truly, the real horrors and monsters of today come in uniform, expensive barongs, and suit and ties that perpetrate State terrorism in surreptitious and deceptive ways,” Karapatan vice chairperson Reylan Vergara said.

“Just in time for Halloween, Duterte’s fascist regime continues to unleash the horrors of State terrorism through raids, Gestapoesque mass arrests, and the old Halloween tricks of search warrants, planted evidence, and trumped-up charges appearing after some intense hocus pocus. These are nothing new—as we have seen in countless other police and military operations against activists—but the mass arrest of 59 individuals in one day of terror is as an alarming sign of the government’s intensifying efforts to crack down on its critics amid the people’s growing clamor to mobilize against the fascist regime,” Vergara further added.

Peasant leaders, trade unionists, human rights defenders, cultural workers, a community journalist, women’s rights activists as well minors are among the at least 59 individuals illegally arrested by State forces in Bacolod City and Manila during the raids against the regional offices of Bayan Muna, Karapatan, Gabriela, the National Federation of Sugar Workers as well as the residences of activists and mass leaders.

Supposedly seized by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) from those illegally arrested in the raids were “assorted short caliber firearms, sub-machine guns, machine guns, live ammunitions, hand grenades, bladed weapons, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) flags, megaphones, microphones, and voluminous subversive documents” according to National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) communications chief Martin Andanar.

“Andanar must be delusional to even put supposedly seized illegal firearms and explosives side by side with KMU flags, megaphones, microphones, and ‘subversive’ documents as evidence of their connections to the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army. They’re now also desperately and illegally confiscating activists’ equipment as proof because they know that the firearms they ‘recovered’ from the offices are shamelessly planted,” Vergara noted.

The Karapatan official also questioned the search warrant issued by Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 89 “whose jurisdiction does not even fall on a city hundreds of miles away from Quezon City.” Burgos-Villavert also issued the search warrants that led to the arrest of Gabriela Metro Manila spokesperson Cora Agovida and her husband Kadamay Metro Manila campaign officer Mickael Tan Bartolome in Manila earlier the same day.

“Andanar wants to give the impression that the arbitrary arrests were lawful simply by virtue of showing a search warrant. However, the questionable source of the said warrant is hidden from the public, conveniently removed from their press releases,” Vergara explained.

He also emphasized that such a “surreptitious subversion of our legal processes can only happen with the active participation and complicity of those in the judiciary. Executive Judge Burgos-Villavert and her bag of tricks must be exposed as working in cahoots with the State’s fascist mercenaries, as evidenced by her ‘dialogue’ with Metro Manila police chief Debold Sinas a mere day before the mass arrests. Aside from issuing the search warrant that facilitated the illegal arrests of an activist couple in Manila earlier on that same day, she also notoriously issued the search warrants that enabled the illegal arrests of Vicente Ladlad and Alberto and Virginia Villamor, Rey Casambre, Estrelita Suaybaguio, and Alexander and Winona Birondo—all of which suspiciously yielded the same result: the planting of evidence and an immediate trumped-up case of illegal firearms and explosives. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, therefore, that the search warrants she issued were merely copy-pasted templates that only needed tweaking every time the State needs to arrest another activist.”

“Even without Halloween, the people suffer under the very real and worsening horrors of State terrorism every day through Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70 and its ‘whole-of-nation’ counterinsurgency campaign. This is exacerbated by Memorandum Order No. 32, which essentially puts Negros under a state of undeclared martial law. The Duterte regime is a big Halloween trick, but if the State thinks terrorizing the people will be effective, it is gravely mistaken: it is merely accelerating the horror of its own downfall,” the Karapatan official ended.