Karapatan calls for the dismissal of trumped-up charges vs trade union organizers Maojo Maga and Juan Alexander Reyes

“Trade unionists are under attack. With the onslaught of neoliberal policies that unilaterally favor companies and business tycoons, their profits come at the expense of workers’ rights. Legitimate initiatives of workers to assert their rights and welfare have been hampered by a string of anti-worker schemes such as contractualization and union busting. Meanwhile, trade unionists and organizers among workers have been subjected to illegal arrests, trumped-up charges, among other forms of human rights violations,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay, particularly citing the cases of Marklen Maojo Maga and Juan Alexander Reyes. On February 6, 2019, hearings will be held on Maga and Reyes’ case in San Mateo, Rizal and Quezon City, respectively. 

On February 22, 2018, Marklen Maojo Maga, a trade union organizer of the Kilusang Mayo Uno, was illegally arrested and charged with trumped-up cases of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Maga, who was then playing basketball with neighbors in a subdivision in San Mateo, Rizal, was dragged inside a van, blindfolded, and brought to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group- National Capital Region (CIDG-NCR) inside Camp Crame, Quezon City. Around four months later, on June 2, 2018, Juan Alexander Reyes, a leader of the Sandigan ng mga Manggagawa sa Quezon City (SMQC) was taken by five men in civilian clothing in San Antonio, Quezon City. He was also forced inside a van and brought to the CIDG-NCR in Camp Crame. Both Maga and Reyes are detained at the Special Intensive Care Area – Metro Manila District Jail (SICA-MMDJ).

The following are a few information on the cases of Juan Alexander Reyes and Marklen Maojo Maga:

1. Warrants of arrest from the same court in Cabadbaran, Agusan del Norte were used against Reyes and Maga; Reyes for arson and Maga for murder. Both, however, have never even set foot in Agusan del Norte or in the Caraga region.

2. To supplement the charges against them, trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives were also lodged against Reyes and Maga: 

    a. In Maga’s case, police attest that he was wearing a bag during his arrest where a caliber .45 pistol with 7 live ammunitions were allegedly “recovered”. However, Maga’s testimony, as well as those of his neighbors who were playing basketball with him, affirms that he was preoccupied with the sport when he was arrested. Maga retorts in one of his testimonies: Who would be playing basketball while wearing a bag and worse, a bag with a gun and live bullets? 

    b. In Reyes’ case, alleged evidence of a caliber .38 revolver with 6 ammunitions were “found” in his belongings. Reyes, however, was only carrying a small sling bag at the time of his arrest, making the claims of him carrying firearms and explosives improbable.

3. In both cases, pictures of the alleged evidence were only photographed while already inside Camp Crame, and not at the place of arrest. Therefore, there remains a question to the credibility of the chain of custody and the procedure of seizing the alleged firearms and explosives, given the high probability of planting of evidence. 

“As the hearing proceeds, we can expect new accusations and lies to implicate Reyes and Maga. Both their cases show the propensity of the government to go to extreme lengths to persecute those whom it considers as “enemies”, even outdoing itself by consigning courts miles away to justify these illegal arrests. The charges filed in Cabadbaran, Agusan del Norte, even as the victims have yet to set foot in the said area, are dubious and implausible. This is a new desperate trick for political persecution from the Duterte regime, coupled by its usual planting of evidence and filing of trumped-up cases of illegal possession of firearms and explosives,” Palabay explained.

As of December 2018, Karapatan has documented that out of the 548 political prisoners in the country, 225 has been arrested under Duterte. Palabay said that the use of illegal possession of firearms and explosives have been particularly rampant, given the ease with which police can manufacture evidence. This legal offensive is further exacerbated by the formation of the Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Action (IACLA), composed of the PNP and AFP, in October 2017. 

“Instead of following through with policies that can uplift the lives of workers and contribute to their general welfare, the Duterte regime instead focuses its attention on jailing trade unionists and organizers, and promoting anti-worker policies. The Duterte regime is a burden to the toiling masses as it incessantly violates not only our civil and political rights, but also our economic, social and cultural rights. We demand that the Duterte regime dismiss the trumped-up charges against Maga and Reyes, and we continue the call to free all political prisoners,” Palabay concluded. 

Reference: Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, +639173162831 

Karapatan Public Information Desk, 0918-9790580