Continuing legal offensives vs progressives seek to sabotage peace efforts

“The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP), through their so-called legal offensives under Oplan Bayanihan, continue to conduct illegal arrests based on trumped-up charges against leaders of progressive organizations,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Secretary General. “The recent illegal arrest and detention of peasant leader Antonio Pajalla and the trumped up charges against the leaders of peasant organizations and people’s organizations in Kidapawan, North Cotabato are proof that there is no let-up in the AFP and PNP’s efforts to violate the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).”

The CARHRIHL is an agreement which is set to be affirmed, among the previous agreements signed by the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, in the upcoming resumption of the formal peacetalks on August 20-27, 2016. 

Amnesty certificate not honored by PNP

Pajalla, Vice Chairperson of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and provincial coordinator of Pinagkaisang Lakas ng Magbubukid (PIGLAS) – Quezon Province, was arrested Friday, August 12, while on his way to the Anakpawis office in Catanauan, Quezon Province. Armed policemen showed him an alias warrant of arrest on charges of rebellion. Pajalla asserted that he was given amnesty on the said case, thus he was already cleared of these charges. Still, the policemen arrested Pajalla and brought him to their police vehicle. He was instructed by an officer not to inform his relatives. However, by 2pm he made a way to make contact with his family and told that he was arrested. Pajalla was held by Third Maneuver Platoon and elements of the PNP Public Safety Management and is currently in custody of PNP Macalelon, Quezon. 

The police refused to acknowledge the Certificate of Amnesty issued to Pajalla on August 29, 1997 by the National Amnesty Commission. The said original copy of the certificate was signed by former Defense Secretary Renato De Villa, Teofisto Guingona, Robert Barbers, Guillermo Ruiz Jr., as members of the NAC and Alfredo Tadiar as then chairperson. The amnesty was granted in pursuance of the provisions of former Pres. Fidel Ramos’s Proclamation No 724. 

“Pajalla’s arrest and continuing detention is clearly illegal and he should be released immediately. The AFP and PNP should stop their attempts to file additional trumped-up charges against Pajalla to justify his continued detention,” Palabay said. 

Karapatan Southern Mindanao also reported the recently known trumped-up charges filed against leaders of peasant groups and people’s organizations in relation to the Kidapawan carnage in North Cotabato. On July 7, 2016, the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of North Cotabato issued subpoenas to KMP Southern Mindanao leaders Pedro Arnado and Jerry Alborme, Lumad leader Norma Capuyan of the Apo Sandawa Lumadnong Panaghiusa sa Cotabato, Honey Mae Suazo of Karapatan Southern Mindanao and fourteen (14) other leaders. 

The said complaint was filed by former PNP Provincial Director Alexander Tagum and some PNP personnel, after the Commission on Human Rights released results of its investigation on the Kidapawan incident, finding the so-called leaders of peasant organizations and rights groups as equally responsible for the violent dispersal of protesting drought-affected farmers on April 1, 2016. “Instead of exacting accountability from the PNP, AFP and national and local officials who ordered the violent dispersal of the farmers’ legitimate protest, the peasant groups and people’s organizations supporting the farmers are being targeted,” Palabay said. 

“Days before the expected release on bail of detained peace consultants for the National Democratic Front in time for the resumption of the formal peacetalks, the arrest of Pajalla and the continuing legal offensives against progressive groups are vile means of the AFP and to sabotage peace efforts,” Palabay emphasized.

“This is all the more reason to push through with the formal peacetalks. The CARHRIHL and other previously signed agreements need to be affirmed to show the sincerity, especially of the Duterte administration, in rectifying the wrongs of the past administrations,” Palabay said. 

Karapatan called for the immediate release of Pajalla and reiterated its call for the release of all political prisoners. The group also reiterated its call to stop the policy and practice of filing trumped up charges, scheme widely used by the Arroyo and Aquino administrations in their attempt to silence progressive groups and leaders.