Rights group condemns illegal arrests, trumped up charges vs union organizers

Karapatan deplores the Aquino government’s continuing attacks against human rights defenders through the recent arrests and filing of trumped-up charges against union organizers and community leaders, days before the commemoration of the International Human Rights Day on December 10. 

Randy Vegas and Raul Camposano, both long-time union organizers and staff of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE), were arrested last December 3 for fabricated charges of murder, theft, and frustrated murder filed at the Regional Trial Court Branch 64 in Labo, Camarines Norte. Vegas and Camposano were implicated in the said cases because of their alleged participation in an ambush of members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines by the New People’s Army in Camarines Norte in April 29, 2012. Courage, including both organizers, supported the latest protest action of employees of the Metro Manila Development Authority for the release of their work benefits.

Also included in the warrant of arrest obtained by the quick reaction team of Courage leaders, relatives of Vegas and Camposano, and Karapatan-Camarines Norte are the names of Bayan-National Capital Region leader Roy Velez and union organizer Amelita Gamara. 
“Aquino’s institution of ‘judicial reforms’ for the ‘respect for human rights’ means the renewal of its efforts to churn out fabricated charges against  activists, members of progressive organizations and unions, peace consultants and leaders of the revolutionary movement, and ordinary citizens. Such dirty ploy is reminiscent of former Pres. Arroyo’s tactics to silence the opposition during her rule. These are underhanded, malicious and desperate tactics that are direct attacks against the organizers and leaders and against the people’s right to organize,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general.

Karapatan said the trumped-up charges against Vegas, Camposano, Velez and Gamara are the latest among the series of cases filed against rights defenders, peace consultants and ordinary individuals. The other cases are that of:
• Security guard Rolly Panesa, who the military insists is Communist Party leader Benjamin Mendoza, was illegally arrested in October 8, 2012 and accused of frustrated murder and rebellion and is being detained. 
• Grayson Naogsan, the son of the spokesperson of the Cordillera People’s Democratic Front (CPDF), was arrested and charged with murder and frustrated murder on November 2012.
•At least 156 individuals from Mindanao are facing various fabricated charges, including the cases against indigenous people’s leaders Genasque Enriquez and Jalandoni Campos. 
• Bayan Negros leader Christian Tuayon and other leaders of organizations in the province were charged with robbery on April 2012. 
• NDFP peace consultant Renante Gamara who was arrested based on trumped-up charges of murder on April 2012.
• The alleged 235 Communist leaders with P466.88M bounty for their capture, through the highly questionable and anomalous Joint Order of the Dept. of National Defense and Dept. of Interior and Local Government. 

“This is Aquino’s de facto revitalization of Arroyo’s Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG), which was recommended for abolition by UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston due to its role in the arrests and filing of fabricated charges against activists and leaders of the revolutionary movement. It is but a copycat of Arroyo’s terror campaign against the people, through Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan which clearly targets all those perceived by the government as its enemies,” Palabay said. 

Karapatan called on Aquino to withdraw all trumped-up charges against activists, peace consultants, leaders of the revolutionary movement, and ordinary individuals and release all political prisoners. The rights group has documented 467 victims of illegal arrests under the Aquino administration, with 127 political prisoners arrested and detained in the said period. ###