Arrest of rights worker in Mindanao amid pandemic shows Duterte’s fascist priorities —Karapatan

Human rights alliance Karapatan denounces the arrest of its Regional Council Member for Northern Mindanao Teresita Naul on March 15, 2020 at around 8:00 a.m. at her relative’s residence in Lala, Lanao del Sur.

Joint elements of the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division, 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade, Mechanized Infantry Division along with the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Division Group and Police Regional Office 10 arrested Naul under trumped-up charges of kidnapping and serious illegal detention, and destructive arson.

Last May 2019, several fabricated charges of robbery, kidnapping with serious illegal detention, arson, grave threat and grave coercion were filed against 468 individuals from the peasant sector, indigenous peoples, government employees, journalists, humanitarian workers and women’s rights activists from Caraga and Northern Mindanao Region. The Armed Forces of the Philippines alleged that they were involved in a military offensive by the New People’s Army against the members of the AFP that happened on November and December of 2018.

The respondents in the case were not even furnished with a copy of the subpoena. The prosecutor also denied the motion for reconsideration of the respondents and issued a haphazard resolution, without clear and convincing evidence that the respondents were indeed involved in the charges.

“Karapatan decries these efforts by the Duterte regime and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) to malign and delegitimize the work of human rights defenders in Mindanao. Naul has been a long-time officer of Karapatan Northern Mindanao. The Duterte regime’s pandemic of fascist attacks continue even amid the 2019 Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, and Naul’s arrest yesterday is an egregious display of the government’s militarist priorities,” Karapatan Deputy Secretary General Roneo Clamor stated. 

The Karapatan official continued that “instead of putting its efforts to addressing the public health crisis, this militarist and fascist regime is rather relentless in its menacing crackdown on human rights defenders, activists, and dissenters through falsified charges and harassment.” 

Before her arrest, Naul was viciously red-tagged along with Karapatan Western Mindanao Chairperson, and Iglesia Filipina Independiente Bishop, Antonio Ablon, and 15 other human rights activists and church workers. In leaflets distributed in Cagayan de Oro City, they were labeled as top-ranking officials, members, supporters, and organizers of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

“Red-tagging and State terror is a virus without a cure for this fascist regime. These malicious efforts are deadlier than any pandemic for they legitimize State violence and human rights violations against the individuals named in those leaflets,” he said.

Clamor averred that “human rights defenders have stood against the government’s efforts to violate people’s rights and civil liberties. They have worked with marginalized communities to assert their rights to health and other basic social services amid threats of militarization and violence from State forces. While the NTF-ELCAC continues to sow State terror with its billions of funds from people’s taxes, public health facilities and medical professionals at the frontline are begging for donations for urgently needed medical supplies amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When the people raise legitimate demands and concerns, the Duterte regime's response has always been State terror, violence, and repression. In the midst of the crisis of its own doing, orchestrating efforts to repress the people will only generate more resistance against tyranny and fascism,” he ended.