28 illegal arrests in less than a month: Aquino govt’s desperation shows

Rights group Karapatan today called on the Aquino government to stop the series of illegal arrests and detention of civilians whom the government “conveniently accused as members or supporters of the New People’s Army to justify its grave violations on civil and political rights.” 

Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, raised the alarm as 28 people were successively arrested and detained in less than one month, from December 2012 to early January this year. “The government’s desperation to meet the Oplan Bayanihan’s 2013 first phase deadline shows in the manner by which these arrests were conducted and the increasing pattern of filing trumped-up charges against activists and civilians,” she said.  

"The Aquino government has established a very dangerous pattern of inserting names in existing warrants of arrest to legitimize false charges and clamp down on persons whom it perceives as its enemy, victimizing even the likes of Rolly Panesa, a security guard, whom the military insists until now as the 5.6-million-peso-prized-catch “Benjamin Mendoza” of the Communist Party of the Philippines,” added Palabay. 

The indigenous peoples in Negros Occidental were arrested and jailed in the course of military operation in the community, accusing them of coddling NPA members; while most of the members of progressive organizations were arrested using and insisting on names from existing warrants, which were not theirs.  The 28 arrested were from Cagayan Valley, Negros Oriental and Occidental, Quezon and members of Courage and Piston, organizations of government employees and drivers, respectively and, of Act Teachers Partylist.

Karapatan earlier said that an uptrend in the incidents of illegal arrest, extrajudicial killing and other rights violations against the people is likely as Oplan Bayanihan gears for its final phase against armed groups. “Oplan Bayanihan took off from Gloria Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya, targeting the same communities as OBL and indiscriminately victimizing people, using the same brutal methods were employed by the Arroyo government,” Palabay said.   

Palabay said the Aquino government attempted to downplay and cover up the rights violations in the country through numerous PR gimmicks, including the setting up of a ‘superbody’ to solve cases of human rights violations.###

Incidents of illegal arrest in December 2012:

  1. Union organizers and staff of Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE) Randy Vegas and Raul Camposano. The two, who were arrested on December 3, are implicated in the ambush of soldiers by the NPA in April 29, 2012. This fabricated charges filed in Labo, Camarines Norte, also implicates Bayan-NCR leaders Roy Velez and Amelita Gamara.
  2. Lay church worker Anecita Rojo, 48, was arrested and forcibly dragged from the Parish convent in Bago City, Negros Occidental by members of PNP Regional Intelligence Unit on December 7. She was brought to Bago City Police Station where she was shown a warrant of arrest for murder charges issued by Branch 60 Cadiz City Regional Trial Court. Rojo was later brough to Cadiz City. During the two-hour trip to Cadiz, the police interrogated Rojo about her daughter, as well as her son-in-law Christian Tuayon. Tuayon is the Secretary General of Bayan-Negros who was arrested, and was later released on bail, on April 2012 for robbery-in-band charges, also filed at Branch 60 Cadiz City RTC.  Both Rojo and Tuayon are implicated in alleged NPA ambuscades in Negros. Rojo remains in detention at Cadiz City-BJMP.
  3. In Isabela, Negros Occidental, nineteen, including three minors, of the Tribu Bukidnon indigenous people were illegally arrested on December 13. Members of the 11th Infantry Battalion of the Phil. Army barged in their village and accused the farmers of keeping NPA members. The farmers were threatened and hauled off to the Isabela police station. Eleven of them were released on December 15, while 8 farmers were charges with murder and multiple frustrated muder, and are currently detained at the La Carlota-BJMP jail. One of the victims is now showing psychological trauma due to alleged (beatings by the police).
  4. In Mulanay, Quezon, farmers Dennis Ortiz, Eleceo Lopez and a 17-year-old boy, were arrested on December 21, while travelling by habal-habal. The three are accused as NPA members and charged with violation of Republic Act 8294, and are currently detained at the Quezon Provincial Jail. Also arrested were the drivers of the habal-habal, Alex Gerez and Ariel Bordahe who were  released the following day.
  5. On Christmas day, Oligario Sebas, 65, was arrested in Negros Oriental by joint AFP and PNP members. The arresting team insisted that Sebas is "Felimon Mendrez," supposedly a top-ranking NPA cadre in Central Visayas, who is charged for rebellion. The soldiers and police also barged into, and illegally searched his house. Despite his denials that he is Mendrez, the ailing and diabetic Sebas was brough to Manjuyod Police Station. Sebas is currently detained ay Bayawan City-BJMP.
  6. Rene Boy Abiva, a 23-year old employee of the Department of Social Work and Development in Cagayan province and a coordinator of the ACT Teachers Partylist, was arrested on December 28 for charges of murder. He was arrested by units led by a certain Col. Julius Balana of the Regional Intelligence Division of the PNP and is currently detained at the Sto. Domingo PNP station at Tuguegarao City. Upon inquiry of his wife on the supposed charges against him, his arresting officers said that he is being arrested for his supposed involvement in the April 2012 NPA ambush of at least 12 soldiers under the 86th Infantry Battalion of the Phil. Army. The said unit has been reportedly carrying out rights violations in the course of their military operations in the communities in Tinoc, Ifugao.
  7. The most recent case of illegal arrest is that of Virgilio Corpuz, 61, Cagayan Valley regional coordinator for Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston) on January 4, 2013. Corpuz was arrested at his home in Santiago City, Isabela by members of the PNP Regional Mobile Group who accused the victim as being "Harold Castillo." Castillo is charged with 17 other individuals, including ACT Teachers Partylist coordinator Rene Boy Abiva for their alleged involvement in an NPA ambush in Tinoc, Ifugao in April 25, 2012.