Karapatan assails arrest of former Southern Tagalog SecGen, 6 other rights workers in Palawan

Rights group Karapatan condemns in strongest terms the illegal and warrantless arrest of human rights workers in Palawan in what is the latest in the Duterte regime’s series of crackdown on rights defenders, activists, and critics.


On the evening of October 4, 2019, at around 8:30pm, former Karapatan – Southern Tagalog Secretary General Glendhyl Malabanan and six other human rights workers were arrested without warrants by combined elements of the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan after they conducted a fact-finding investigation on reports of human rights violations perpetrated by military forces against farmers in Taytay town.


“The warrantless arrest of Glendhyl Malabanan and six other human rights workers in Palawan is a clear case of the government’s intensifying reprisals on human rights defenders and activists for their work in exposing the Duterte regime’s fascist attacks on the people,” Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay said.


Malabanan is the daughter of Bay, Laguna Bayan Muna coordinator Romeo Malabanan, one of the hundreds of victims of extrajudicial killings under the Arroyo regime; he was shot in front of their home on December 23, 2003, merely a few days before Christmas. It was the  brutal murder of her father that drove her to become part of Karapatan - Southern Tagalog and engage in human rights work in the region since the Macapagal-Arroyo administration.


After coming from Taytay, the human rights investigation team were accosted around Maoyon, Puerto Princesa where they were pointed at with guns and made to lay down on the road. When they demanded for an arrest warrant, the forces of the PNP and AFP gave a document without any of their names, and they were made to ride a vehicle. They were told that they will be brought to the Puerto Princesa City Police Station, but somewhere along the way, they were diverted and brought to another checkpoint, where the police insisted that the firearms they “confiscated” belonged to Malabanan which she vehemently denied. The police insisted that they be presented to the media together with the confiscated items. The police also showed an arrest warrant without any of the arrested persons names.


The same scheme had been used by the PNP and AFP most recently in the mass illegal arrest of cultural workers in Escalante City, Negros Occidental last September 18 as they were preparing for the 34th commemoration of the 1985 Escalante Massacre. 


“We have seen this happen already in countless other cases, especially with the onslaught of the regime’s intensified counterinsurgency campaigns under Oplan Kapanatagan. The state is already desperate and exhausting its old and tired tactics of illegal, warrantless arrests, planting of evidence, and filing of trumped-up charges to vilify and discredit human rights work as ‘terrorism,’” Palabay said.


“We strongly call for the release of Malabanan and the six other human rights workers arrested by the PNP and AFP. We will not back down. We will continue our work of exposing the rotting fascist core of this regime,” the Karapatan official ended.