Karapatan decries arrests of FARDEC officer and UCCP pastor in Bohol, peasant organizers in Laguna

Human rights watchdog Karapatan decried the arrests of Farmers Development Center’s (FARDEC) program coordinator for Bohol Carmilo Tabada and United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Pastor Nathaniel Vallente in Bohol and of peasant organizers Dana Marie Marcellana and Christian Relao in Laguna today in what the group said is “a continuation of the crackdown in Southern Tagalog along with signs that these same dirty tactics are now being replicated for a crackdown on Bol-anon activists and human rights defenders.”

“The arrests of Carmilo Tabada and Pastor Nathaniel Vallente in Bohol and of Dana Marie Marcellana, and Christian Relao in Laguna today continue the alarming patterns we have raised before the Supreme Court — and these patterns in Gestapoesque raids, which have proven to be deadly especially during the ‘Bloody Sunday’ raids in Southern Tagalog, are now being replicated in Bohol. Clearly, their arrests are part of a systemic and desperate crackdown on dissent under the guise of the Duterte government’s brutal counterinsurgency campaign,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

Tabada, also a barangay councilor, was arrested in his home in Trinidad, Bohol around 1 a.m. today. His family asserted that firearms and explosives were planted by the police and the military during the raid on his home. He is currently detained at the Trinidad Municipal Police Station. Tabada had been previously visited and threatened by intelligence agents to stop working for FARDEC, which was listed by Department of National Defense as a “communist terrorist front organization” along with other humanitarian organizations in a House panel briefing last November 5, 2019.

Around the same time, Marcellana and Relao, provincial organizers of Katipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA TK) in Quezon and Laguna, were arrested by suspected elements of the Police Regional Mobile Force Battalion 4A, the San Pablo City Police Station, and the military in San Pablo City, Laguna. However, the police and military presented no search nor arrests warrants according to Karapatan – Timog Katagalugan before they were taken to the San Pablo City District Jail and reportedly charged with rebellion and illegal possession of firearms.

Marcellana is the eldest daughter of former KASAMA TK spokesperson Orly Marcellana and the late Eden Marcellana, a staunch human rights defender and Karapatan – Timog Katagalugan’s secretary general before she was abducted and summarily executed in 2003 along with peasant leader Eddie Gumanoy during a fact-minding mission on the killings and abductions in Mindoro Oriental under the murderous counterinsurgency campaigns of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Ka Orly, meanwhile, has been on the receiving end of threats to his life ever since his wife.

Pastor Vallente was arrested subsequently around 3 a.m. in his house in Mabini, Bohol by three truckloads of police and military elements. Like Tabada, a grenade and a firearm were also planted on Pastor Vallente and led to his arrest. Church workers from the UCCP have been arrested in recent months such as Pastor Benjie Gomez and Pastor Dan Balucio, as well as the trumped-up charges against Bishop Hamuel Tequis and Rev. Daniel Palicte, and the freezing of the bank accounts of the UCCP Haran Center in Davao.

Palabay averred that “along with employing the bloody tactics first unleashed upon Negros in the Synchronized Enhanced Managing of Police Operations and Oplan Sauron, the arrests of Carmilo Tabada and Pastor Nathaniel Vallente are clearly meant to target FARDEC and the UCCP. These are shameless fascist attacks on peasant advocates, church workers, and humanitarian organizations who are merely aiding the marginalized in society. That another set arrests were conducted in Southern Tagalog today means the crackdown in the region is far from over — and that this are coordinated operations.”

“It is only a matter of time before these tactics are employed en masse for a nationwide crackdown led by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict. These attacks and raids must be ended now — and we assert the call to free Carmilo Tabada, Pastor Nathaniel Vallente, Dana Marie Marcellana, and Christian Relao, to drop the trumped-up charges against them, and to investigate the raids and operations that led to their arrests today. We cannot let these attacks continue unabated,” the Karapatan official concluded.