Karapatan slams arrest of 70-year old ex-peasant organizer, calls for release of sickly NDFP consultant

“While the Duterte administration still fails to release all political prisoners, including the sick and the elderly, arrests and illegal detention continue,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan.

Bucatcat Sickly Political Prisoner 

On March 9, 2017, at around 7:25 a.m., a 70-year old former peasant organizer in Samar province, Lilia Bucatcat, was on her way to Marikina River Park to do her usual routine of walking her dog, when four individuals aboard a black car illegally arrested her. Bucatcat said two of her captors were wearing uniforms of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-Philippine National Police (CIDG-PNP), while she suspected that the two others are from the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP). 

Bucatcat recalled seeing one of her arresting officers frequenting their area. Her relatives also recounted that suspicious looking men, posing as vendors, were unusually loitering around their area and looking towards the direction of their residence, days before Bucatcat’s arrest.

There was no warrant of arrest shown to her when she was arrested, even if she asked that she be shown one. Her captors denied her request that she be allowed to inform her family of her arrest, to bring the dog back to and get her things from their house. She was brought to the office of the CIDG-National Capital Region in Camp Crame, Quezon City. 

At the CIDG-NCR office, during the interrogation of Bucatcat, she was asked by police officers if she knew the persons, whose names they mentioned, including a certain Baleros, probably referring to former political prisoner Renato Baleros. Bucatcat said that she heard of Baleros’ name but never knew him. It was only then when she was shown a warrant of arrest on trumped up charges of arson. 

Bucatcat was later brought to PNP General Hospital in Camp Crame for medical examination and back to the CIDG-NCR office where her mug shots and finger prints were taken. Her blood pressure was at 150/80. Bucatcat has a benign cyst in her throat as well as sciatica (body pains affecting lower back and both legs), and other related illnesses due to her advanced age. It was the next day, March 10, when Bucatcat had access to her relatives, Karapatan paralegals and counsels from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), when they found her at the CIDG-NCR office, after a whole day search in different institutions. 

“Bucatcat has long served the peasants and surely did not deserve to be illegally arrested and harassed, under trumped up charges. She must be immediately released to her family,” said Palabay.

Similarly, wrongly-convicted National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant Emeterio Antalan, 58, was rushed to the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) Hospital on March 5, at around 1pm, after complaining of chest pains. 

At 6 p.m. the next day, March 6, Antalan was transferred to the emergency room of Ospital ng Muntinlupa. According to his attending physician, he suffered a mild heart attack. Antalan underwent laboratory tests and stayed in the emergency room until March 8, when he was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the said hospital. On March 12, at 8.p.m., he was transferred to the regular ward. He is set to be transferred today to the Philippine Heart Center for further tests. 

“It is even more urgent now to release Antalan, with his current medical condition. We do not want another case of NDFP consultant Eduardo Serrano and Bernabe Ocasla, who were then sick and elderly, and had long suffered dismal prison conditions that eventually lead to their death due to heart ailments. We also call on Duterte to release all political prisoners and stop the arrests, harassment and criminalization of the work of political activists,” ended Palabay.