Series of raids, killing of former political prisoner and disappearance of former Karapatan officer mark intensifying crackdown

Human rights group Karapatan strongly assails the Duterte government and its whole gamut of state forces for orchestrating an intensifying crackdown against legal organizations and vocal activists. Progressive advocacy groups such as Karapatan, Bayan, Gabriela, Bayan Muna, among others, have battled through different governments and numerous repressive policies. They have remained steadfast in articulating legitimate and grounded criticisms against anti-people policies, and have spearheaded campaigns for accountability, justice, and various reforms.

"The targeted organizations are those who remain vocal against the crimes and violations perpetrated by the Duterte regime. In an attempt to whitewash its crimes and silence dissent, state forces are now working in cahoots with a compromised portion of the judiciary to legitimize repression. For these series of attacks, we hold to account the Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the government’s National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict that was established by President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70," said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.

According to initial reports, the office of Bayan Manila at Flora Street corner Clemente Street in Tondo, Manila was raided on Tuesday, November 5, at 1 am, wherein 3 activists namely Ram Carlo Bautista, Bayan Manila Campaign Director; Alma Moran, Manila Workers Unity Secretariat; and Ina Nacino, Kadamay Manila Coordinator, were arbitrarily arrested in the course of the said raid.

“The narrative that there are guns and bombs in the said office, as what the government has peddled in the raids of offices in Negros, is preposterous and a barefaced lie meant to justify these patently arbitrary arrests and to silence social justice workers and activists,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

On October 31, at least 57 individuals, including minors, were illegally arrested as State forces simultaneously raided the offices of Bayan, Bayan Muna, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Karapatan, Gabriela, the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), and the Negros Island Health Integrated Program, along with the residence of local leaders in Bacolod City and Manila.

“Operatives are now trying to cover their tracks by taking on a semblance of legality, but these arbitrary arrests following raids are far from lawful. These attacks are indicative of a compromised justice system that mindlessly complies with the whims, demands, and sinister agenda of this government. Again, we reiterate that whatever evidence is planted, the police and government narrative defies logic and those who enforce and abetted these patently illegal moves, including judges, should be held to account. These are brazen violations of the right to association and other civil liberties,” she added.

Palabay noted that the series of raids which led to the arbitrary arrest of several activists were penned and signed by one executive judge: "Search warrants issued by QC RTC Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert were used to justify this ongoing crackdown. The said Judge not only met with new NCRPO Debold Sinas prior to the October 31 raids, but the search warrants were a "cut and paste" version of each other. The raid were then followed by the planting of evidence. As of latest, this is now the Duterte regime's new formula to legitimize repression and mask political persecution in legal processes."

She also warned of more raids, and cautioned other human rights defenders to stay vigilant and defiant, amid such brazen attacks. 

The Karapatan official also linked the latest case of extrajudicial killing in Southern Tagalog and the enforced disappearance of a former Karapatan worker as part of the regime's intensifying crackdown.

According to reports, labor leader and former political prisoner Reynaldo Malaborbor, 64, was shot by still unidentified gunmen in front of his house at Katapatan Subdivision in Cabuyao, Laguna on Monday evening, November 4. He was a leader of labor alliance group Alyansa ng mga Manggagawa sa Probinsya ng Laguna (ALMAPILA). Back in 2010, he was arrested along with 2 other peasant acticists, and was charged with trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Five years later, in 2015, his case was dismissed. He remained active as a labor leader prior to his killing.

Meanwhile, Honey Mae ‘Hanimay’ Suazo, former Karapatan Southern Mindanao Secretary General, is still missing since she left their home last November 2 to visit her departed loved ones in Panabo, Davao del Norte. She was last seen onboard a motorcycle on her way home.

“The continuing attacks on activists and progressive organizations prove how this government shamelessly disregards the decades-long call of Filipinos for genuine social reforms and respect for human rights. We condemn in the strongest terms the horrible and fascist Duterte regime for waging a war against the Filipino people by implementing anti-people policies and by persecuting individuals who oppose and expose its brutal crimes,” Palabay said.

“Amid the intensified crackdown, we call for vigilance and defiance. Yet we also call for unity and widespread condemnation against the emergence of a dictatorship. We are reminded that tyrants are not forever, and even the most brutal and populist dictators, along with its band of militarist and similar fascist-minded ilk, are being made to account for their crimes against the people. The social ills of our society remain, regardless of how much they try to drown out the legitimate demands of the people. We shall overcome," Palabay concluded.