Karapatan condemns trumped-up charges vs peace consultant Suaybaguio, decries political persecution and planting of evidence

Karapatan strongly condemns the arbitrary arrest of another peace consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) on August 26, 2019, at around 2am. Peace consultant Esterlita Suaybaguio, 59, was abducted in her residence in Quezon City by police and military operatives, and was brought to Camp Caringal where she was interrogated. She is undergoing inquest proceedings on trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

“As the crackdown on peace consultants continue, state forces seem to be working on an erroneous and misconstrued assumption that the arrest of NDFP consultants will magically solve the root causes of the armed conflict in the country. Such incidents and violations are borne out of militarist campaigns that merely show the government’s propensity to subvert laws, plant evidence, and use its entire machinery to jail critics and individuals with differing political beliefs,” said Karapatan Vice Chairperson Reylan Vergara.

According to initial reports, Suaybaguio was sleeping when operatives arrived. Upon entry, said operatives scattered and searched inside the rented unit and destroyed the cabinet where belongings of the condominium owner were kept. At that time, Suaybaguio's empty purple shoulder bag was placed on top of her bed where the operatives planted a 9mm loaded pistol and a grenade.

Karapatan emphasized that the trumped-up charges against consultant Esterlita Suaybaguio shows the pattern that state forces have continuously used against activists and other critics: “The manner of arrest and even the cases are similar. Illegal possession of firearms and explosives are among the most common fabricated case leveled against perceived enemies of the State, precisely because it is easiest to manufacture. A “search” – now synonymous with “time to plant evidence” – was done for about half an hour in Suaybaguio’s residence, after which evidence of firearms and explosives suddenly materialize.”

The government has unilaterally terminated the peace talks in November 2017, and since then, the crackdown on NDFP peace consultants, regardless of age, frail conditions, among other humanitarian factors, have worsened.

“The Duterte government cannot continue hiding the widespread injustice brought about by its anti-people policies by committing other forms of injustice. No matter how many people they wrongfully arrest and charge with trumped-up cases, this government cannot conceal the systematic poverty, the landlessness and dying of the agriculture sector, the plunder of our resources, the surrendering of our sovereignty, and the dire situation of ordinary workers who have long suffered from poor working conditions and low wages. These are among the causes of unrest in our society that are not resolved by politically persecuting the people who raise these issues,” Vergara explained.

“There are now 545 political prisoners in the country as of June 2019. This means hundreds of individuals have been wrongfully accused for acting on their political beliefs and conscience, and for highlighting the many issues and violations that this government wants buried. The targeting of peace consultants through perjured testimonies, planted evidence and defective warrants will not solve the armed conflict in the country, contrary to the militarist claims of this government. Rather, it only adds to the injustice that unmasks the real repressive and vindictive core of the state,” ended Vergara.