Karapatan scores Aquino, AFP on December arrests and detention of activists and individuals

Karapatan today deplored the recent spate of illegal arrests, based on trumped-up charges, this December of 23 indigenous peoples, government employees and individuals.

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said their chapters and network organizations have reported the following incidents of arrests:

  1. Randy Vegas and Raul Camposano, both long-time union organizers and staff of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE), were arrested last December 3 for fabricated charges of murder, theft, and frustrated murder filed at the Regional Trial Court Branch 64 in Labo, Camarines Norte. Vegas and Camposano were implicated in the said cases because of their alleged participation in an ambush of members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines by the New People’s Army in Camarines Norte in April 29, 2012. Courage, including both organizers, supported the latest protest action of employees of the Metro Manila Development Authority for the release of their work benefits.
  2. Nineteen members, including three minors, of the Tribu Bukidnon Indigenous Peoples organization in Brgy. San Agustin, Isabela, Negros Occidental were illegally arrested last December 13, after elements of the 11th Infantry Battalion of the Phil. Army barged in their village and accused the farmers of keeping members of the New People’s Army. The farmers suffered from various forms of involuntary servitude, when they were threatened and ordered by the military to go with them to another village where they were hauled off to the Isabela Philippine National Police station. Eleven of them were released on December 15, while eight farmers were charged with murder and multiple frustrated murder, and are currently detained at the Isabela Police Station in Negros Occidental.
  3. 65-year old Olegario Sevas, was illegally arrested last December 25 in Negros Oriental by elements of the AFP and PNP. Initial reports indicate that Sevas was tagged as “Filemon Mendrez,” an alleged leader of the NPA who had a P5.25 million bounty for his arrest. The military said ‘Filemon Mendrez’ was charged with rebellion and robbery in band, while the warrant of arrest against Sevas does not bear his name. He is currently detained at the Bayawan City BJMP, Negros Oriental.
  4. Rene Boy Abiva, a 23-year old employee of the Department of Social Work and Development at Cagayan province and an organizer of the ACT Teachers Partylist, was arrested yesterday December 28 for charges of murder. He was arrested by units led by a certain Col. Julius Balana of the Regional Intelligence Division of the PNP and is currently detained at the Sto. Domingo PNP station at Tuguegarao City. Upon inquiry of his wife on the supposed charges against him, his arresting officers said that he is being arrested for his supposed involvement in the April 2012 NPA ambush of at least 12 soldiers under the 86th Infantry Battalion of the Phil. Army. The said unit has been reportedly carrying out rights violations in the course of their military operations in the communities in Tinooc, Ifugao.
“It seems that the Aquino government and the military are scrambling to show off their supposed ‘achievements’ in meeting their target of eliminating the CPP-NPA through their Oplan Bayanihan, which resulted to grave, arbitrary and spurious arrests and charges of activists and individuals whom they easily branded as communists.  These arrests also show how mad they are in claiming their ‘Christmas presents’ through the bounties they have offered for the arrests of those in their list,” Palabay commented.

Karapatan also noted that with the recent arrests and detention, the number of political prisoners under the Aquino government continues to swell. The group documented 398 political prisoners as of November 30, 2012, at least 123 of them arrested under the Aquino administration and are still currently detained.

“Aquino has not only remained callous in heeding the demands of the people in releasing political prisoners, he has also continued the policy and practice of heaping criminal offenses on activists and ordinary citizens whom his administration deems as ‘enemies of the state’,” Palabay concluded.