KARAPATAN slams arbitrary arrests, threats ahead of EDSA People Power 1 commemoration

“The arbitrary arrests and unjust detention of Filipinos under the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. regime show that the same forms of injustice that the Filipino people rose up against 38 years ago continue,” said KARAPATAN Secretary General Cristina Palabay, as the group condemned the unjust arrests and detention of persons ahead of the People Power 1 commemoration.

KARAPATAN condemned the arbitrary arrest of Pertinisa Charita, 55, a farmer, who was with her children to visit her husband, detained sugarcane worker unionist Leon Charita, in San Carlos City District Jail, San Carlos, Negros Occidental. It was Leon’s birthday when Pertinisa and her children visited him on February 13.

During the search of Pertinisa and her children’s belongings and the items they brought for Leon, a jail officer of the San Carlos City District Jail opened Pertinisa’s bag and showed a caliber .22 pistol in his hand, implying that the gun was found inside Pertinisa’s bag. Jail officers immediately apprehended Pertinisa and brought her to PNP San Carlos City station. She remains under police custody as of this writing.

“It is highly improbable that an ordinary person will bring a firearm to jail, knowing his or her belongings will be searched. It is appalling that they did this to a wife of a political prisoner, who is already suffering in jail due to planted evidence. We condemn how the state has victimized the Charita family twice over, with Pertinisa actively calling for her husband’s freedom,” said Palabay.

Pertinisa was among those who met UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression Irene Khan in her Visayas visit in January to provide information on the case of her husband.

Leon was the auditor of the National Federation of Sugar Workers when he was arrested on September 18, 2019, along with seven other activists while they were preparing and inviting people to join the commemoration activity on the Escalante massacre. Elements of the 79th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, Escalante City PNP, and 3rd Platoon, 1st Negros Occidental Provincial Mobile Force Company (NOCPMFC), arbitrarily arrested Leon and his colleagues and planted various firearms and explosives.

KARAPATAN also deplored the arrest and continued detention of filmmaker and director Jade Castro, who was arrested along with three others in Mulanay, Quezon on February 1 for allegedly burning a modernized jeepney the night before. The human rights group also decried the harassment of radio commentator and human rights activist Vince Casilihan by men who introduced themselves as soldiers on February 8.

“We stand with Castro’s fellow artists and colleagues that they are innocent, and they are victims of warrantless arrests. We support Casilihan’s efforts to expose the various forms of harassment against journalists like him in the Bicol region. Castro and his companions should be released soon, while State forces should keep their hands off Casilihan and other press freedom advocates. These incidents in the heels of UN Special Rapporteur Khan’s investigation on the state of freedom of expression and opinion in the Philippines further reaffirm the sordid human rights situation in the Philippines,” Palabay said.

As KARAPATAN prepares to join commemoration activities on the 38th year after the People Power 1 uprising, Palabay said they will also continue to call for the release of the 800 political prisoners in the country.

“There is no holiday for the Marcos Jr. regime in employing the martial law practice of warrantless arrests, trumped up charges and unjust detention. In the upcoming People Power anniversary commemoration, we shall continue to demand for the release of political prisoners, and in holding the Marcos Jr. regime accountable for the spate of rights violations under its watch. Justice and genuine freedom can only be attained with people’s action. Let us live up to the lessons of People Power,” Palabay ended.