Two years after formation of gov’t body filing charges vs activists, Karapatan calls for its abolition

"Under the Duterte government, we have seen an alarming increase in the number of activists and government critics charged with trumped-up cases and subjected to illegal arrests. This is a systematic maneuver meant to silence those voicing out legitimate issues and the poor’s interests. Since October 2017, the machinery tasked with case build-up for the filing of trumped-up charges has been the Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Action (IACLA), alongside the devious machinations under the National Task Force (NTF) to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and the implementation of counterinsurgency Oplan Kapanatagan,” Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Secretary General said.
The IACLA, formed in October 9, 2017, is a government body jointly convened and operated by the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The agency is the scion of the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG) which was formed under then-President Gloria Arroyo. The IALAG was abolished in 2009, following findings that it is behind the political persecution of defenders and critics.

“For two years now, IACLA is used by this tyrannical regime to intensify its crackdown on activists. IACLA has been in the business of planting evidence and producing false witnesses, tagteaming with prosecutors and courts for the release of defective warrants, and the over-all concoction of baseless and ridiculous stories to justify illegal arrests. One of the most preposterous trend since IACLA is the use of warrants from courts in the Caraga region in Mindanao to invent cases against and cause the arrest of activists in Metro Manila, despite the dire lack of evidence and logic presented by soldiers and cops. They have laboratories for testing how far they can go in weaponizing the law and subverting legal processes,” explained Palabay. 

According to the Karapatan official, the IACLA has contributed to the rapid spiraling down of the human rights situation in the country. As of June 2019, Karapatan has documented 545 political prisoners in the country, 285 of which were arrested under the Duterte government. She added that “many of the victims are peasant and indigenous leaders who are further disenfranchised by the disjointed justice system in the country that favors the rich and powerful. The double standard in our justice system is sickening, resulting to further injustice for the victims of human rights violations.”

Palabay also mentioned the recent case of illegal arrests in Palawan, involving human rights workers and Karapatan’s former secretary general in its Southern Tagalog regional chapter. Per reports, on the evening of October 4, 2019, seven human rights workers were arrested without warrants by combined elements of the PNP and AFP in Puerto Princesa City after they conducted a fact-finding investigation on reports of human rights violations perpetrated by State forces against farmers in Taytay town. The human rights workers are now set to face trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. 

“The criminalization of human rights workers is nothing new, particularly in the context of repressive governments. Through IACLA and other militarist invention by the Duterte government, repression is desperately justified by this regime through obviously-concocted lies. The use of illegal possession of firearms and explosives, for example, is the easiest and most commonly used trumped-up charge under this government because it is the easiest to manufacture. The police and the military have certainly earned their expertise in planting evidence,” noted Palabay.

“As we call for the immediate abolition of IACLA, we also urge the Duterte regime to free all political prisoners who were detained based on fabricated charges, and to dismiss all trumped-up cases filed against activists. Political persecution is certainly the resort of guilty and repressive regimes who do not want to be called out for their failures and crimes against the people. IACLA is a tool to silence critics and such machinations have no place in a truly democratic society. The existence of IACLA, NTF, and all other bodies mandated to launch witchhunts against critics further reveal the falsities of the so-called democracy undet the Duterte government,” concluded Palabay.