Karapatan deplores harassment of political prisoner counsel

Karapatan deplores the harassment against Atty. Vj Topacio, one of the legal counsels of detained political activist Ferdinand Castillo, as a brazen act of intimidation by the Armed Forces of the Philippines against human rights lawyers. 


Yesterday, March 7, in a hearing during the preliminary investigation on the trumped up charges of illegal possession of ammunitions against Castillo, Topacio questioned the presence of a certain Bryan De Guzman-Bantilan, who introduced himself as the counsel for the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP). Topacio said that neither agency is a party to the case and that therefore Gatillan has no personality in the case, as there are individual complainants from the CIDG-NCR. Topacio sought the prosecutor's action on the Gatillan's submission of proof of engagement of the individual complainants as their counsel. 

After the hearing, while Topacio was driving from the Caloocan Prosecutor's Office to Edsa, he was chased by suspected State agents onboard a white Revo vehicle with red plate number SGY 793 (picture of vehicle attached) and a motorcycle. He managed to evade them after ten minutes. 

Topacio is from the Pro-Labor Assistance Center (PLACE) and the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL). Castillo, campaign officer of Bayan Metro Manila, was illegally arrested on February 12, 2017. 

We call on the AFP and the PNP to stop these brazen attacks against human rights defenders. Through the State's counter insurgency programs such as Oplan Kapayapaan and all-out war against the people, peasants, workers, national minorities, human and people's rights advocates have become fair targets of harassment and worse violations. We stand with Topacio and peoples' lawyers in their staunch defense of peoples' rights.