KARAPATAN slams recent terror case vs Southern Tagalog human rights workers

KARAPATAN denounces the recently-reported indictment of two Southern Tagalog young activists for alleged violation of Republic Act No. 10168 or the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012.

The ridiculous accusation of terrorist financing levelled against Southern Tagalog youth activists Fritz Jay Labiano and Adrian Paul Tagle is but the latest act by the State to criminalize human rights work and demonize activism.

Labiano is the coordinator of Kabataan Partylist in Quezon while Tagle is the coordinator of Tanggol Quezon, an affiliate of Karapatan-Southern Tagalog. Both Tagle and Labiano have been providing paralegal services and other forms of humanitarian assistance to political prisoners.

The indictment stems from Labiano and Tagle’s provision of humanitarian assistance to environmental defender Miguela Peniero and indigenous rights advocate Rowena Dasig who had just been arbitrarily arrested on July 12, 2023, and were detained at the Atimonan Municipal Police Station in Quezon Province. An arrest warrant dated July 18, 2023 surfaced against Peniero and six other individuals on charges of violations of Republic Act No. 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Neither Labiano nor Tagle received summons to submit affidavits in their defense. Their right to due process had been violated.

Their complainants from the 85th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army claimed that providing PhP 500 (~USD9), drinking water and assorted food items to the two women detainees constituted terrorist financing. Testimonies of certain individuals, presumably paid witnesses, were also used in alleging that Dasig and Peniero are members of the CPP-NPA-NDF and that Karapatan-Southern Tagalog is a front organization of the CPP-NPA-NDF.

This case sets a very dangerous precedent as it penalizes human rights defenders and humanitarian aid workers who provide assistance to activists in police or military custody, on mere testimonies, which are fabricated falsehoods, by soldiers and paid witnesses. It moreover displays another egregious facet of the anti-terrorism and anti-terrorist financing laws, which are already notorious for their unjustness and arbitrariness.

Labiano and Tagle are among the 91 activists, humanitarian and church workers who have faced complaints or charges of violations of RA 10168 and RA 11479. These complaints and charges are without any credible basis, and are filed on mere fabricated testimonies by paid witnesses, masquerading as rebel returnees.

We decry the role of Marcos Jr.’s Department of Justice in the filing of charges against human rights workers Labiano and Tagle and in the prosecution of complaints against activists and humanitarian workers using the twin terror laws. Marcos Jr. is trying to fool the international community into believing that there is a rosy human rights situation in the Philippines. This form of judicial harassment, as well as scores of human rights and international humanitarian law violations, prove otherwise.

KARAPATAN demands that the baseless charges against Labiano and Tagle be junked. We call on all freedom-loving Filipinos to oppose these twin repressive laws that have proven to be gravely injurious to the people’s civil and political rights.