Just like Arroyo’s OBL, Aquino’s OpBay attacks leaders of people’s organizations, rights defenders

Illegal arrests, trumped-up charges 

Yet another case of political repression against human rights defenders is reported under the Aquino regime.

Leaders of people’s organizations such as Karapatan-Negros Secretary General Fred Caña, Christian Tuayon of Bayan-Negros, Ronald Ian Evidente of KMU-Negros, Clarizza Singson of Gabriela-Negros, Bernardito Patigas of the North Negros Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (NNAHRA), and Gualberto Dajao of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT-Negros) are being implicated in a fabricated murder charge for the death of a certain 1Lt. Archie Polenzo who was allegedly killed during NPA-AFP clash in March 2010.

“These forms of attacks, through the filing of fabricated charges, against human rights defenders are escalating, at a time when Aquino’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan (OpBay) is on its last year of Phase 1 implementation. As the “architect” of OpBay Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista today takes his post as AFP Chief of Staff, his assumption to office has already indicated the escalation of human rights violations under the Aquino administration,” Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan, said. 

Palabay noted that 28 persons were successively arrested and detained in less than one month, from December 2012 to early January this year. The indigenous peoples in Negros Occidental were arrested and jailed in the course of military operation in the community, with the soldiers 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 province and members of Courage and Piston, organizations of government employees and drivers, respectively and, of Act Teachers Partylist. Also among those charges were two leaders from the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU)-National Capital Region. 

“This reminds us of the Southern Tagalog 72 during the Oplan Bantay Laya days of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo where members and leaders of progressive organizations faced trumped-up charges to harass and intimidate them. We demand that all charges against these activists and civilians be withdrawn or immediately dismissed,” Palabay said.

The names of the Negrense activists were included in an affidavit executed by an alleged NPA surrenderee Freddie Sanchez. He mentioned some 51 names of individuals which he claimed are top ranking CPP-NPA leaders who purportedly attended a meeting that 1Lt. Polenzo’s group had monitored and later clashed with. “The AFP is making up stories to harass us and destroy the legal mass movement in Negros Occidental,” Clarissa Singson of Gabriela-Negros said.

One of the 51 names cited in the warrant was Michael Celeste. In June 2011, Celeste became a victim of enforced disappearance when he was abducted by elements of a paramilitary group Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB). Celeste remains missing.    

Karapatan will join various people’s organizations on Friday, January 18, at a protest action in Mendiola to condemn the increasing cases of political re€pression and to call for the immediate and unconditional release of political prisoners.