BY TYRONE A. VELEZ
DAVAO CITY – Davao activists expressed alarm that they might be the next target of arrests and “trumped-up” charges by the military in the wake of recent incidence of rights abuses. This, as a partylist congressman condemned what he calls as the use of “fall guy trick(s)” to justify illegal arrests.
In his weekly television show Sunday, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte took exception of the issue and said he will not allow authorities to arrest individuals on account of their political beliefs.
In a press conference before the weekend, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Southern Mindanao spokesperson Sheena Duazo said they had heard information that arrests would be made on activists who “hoarded” Manobo families from Talaingod, Davao del Norte to Davao City.
“It was their datus (tribal leaders) who volunteered to evacuate. You can’t file a case unless you are the victim, so there is no basis for them to file such case,” said Duazo.
Earlier, on May 2, an anti-mining activist Romeo Rivera Jr in Tampakan, South Cotabato, was arrested by authorities who alleged that he was Felix Armonida, alias Jing, a commander of the New People’s Army.
Karapatan Southern Mindanao spokesperson Hanimay Suazo said one of their paralegal staff based in Compostela Valley was almost arrested during a rally last March when police authorities attempted to serve her a warrant alleging her as an NPA.
Both leaders from Bayan and Karapatan said that they had not been spared from “red tagging” by Colonel Lyndon Paniza, spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Eastern Mindanao Command (Easmincom) who repeatedly called them and their organizations as “fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines.”
Early this year, Sheena Duazo said she had received text messages last December to January from an alleged national security consultant warning her that “things are going to be rough for the next 12 months.”
Other groups such as Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas reported of harassments of farmer leaders in Manay, Davao Oriental who were filed with trumped-up charges. In Paquibato, farmers and village officials were forced to sign “surrender” forms.
For his part, Bayan Muna Partylist Rep. Carlos Zarate slammed what he called a “systematic effort” by the military to “use fall guys in running after the supposed leaders of the underground communist movement.”
In a statement, Zarate cited the “fall guy” trick used in the infamous Jonas Burgos abduction and in the arrest of security guard Rolly Panesa who was presented by the AFP as one Benjamin Mendoza, a supposed ranking CPP leader with a P5.6 million reward on his head. The Court of Appeals last year ruled for Panesa’s release.
“This is an old condemnable trick of the security forces: arresting innocent civilians and conveniently presenting them as leaders of the underground movement. From Arroyo’s Bantay Laya to the present Oplan Bayanihan counter-insurgency campaign of the Aquino administration, the pattern remains the same,” Zarate said.
“First, they will vilify critics of the regime and even ordinary citizens as leaders of the CPP-NPA-NDF, and then they will be subjected to surveillance, harassment, illegal arrests or even ‘neutralization’ by being victims of enforced disappearance and extrajudicial killings,” Rep. Zarate added.
In last week’s press conference, Kilusang Mayo Uno spokesperson Joel Maglunsod said “Is this short of declaring Martial Law or is the government declaring war against the Makabayan bloc? Farmers only ask for land to till and workers ask for jobs and wages, but why are we being persecuted?”
The last time a crackdown of activists happened was in April 2006 when the Arroyo government linked activists to an alleged coup plot with disgruntled officers of the military.
That time, Bayan Muna representative Joel Virador was seized by police in Davao City. He and five other partylist representatives, called the “Batasan Six,” were placed under protective custody in the House of Representatives for two months. They, along with Senator Gringo Honasan and 42 others were charged by the Department of Justice after finding probable cause that they “conspired and confederated with each other” to overthrow the government. In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled in a 23-page decision and ordered the dismissal of the cases for lack of probable cause and due process.
Meanwhile, Duterte said during Sunday’s program: “I assure you it will not happen in the city. When you say your heart belongs to the left, that is not enough to arrest you. I will also call the attention of the Armed Forces and the police,” Duterte said.
The mayor said there is a difference between expressing views sympathetic to the left and joining the Communist Party to overthrow government.
“I will not allow mass arrests of politically-motivated movements,” he added.
He said that he considers himself open to the Left especially negotiating with the New People’s Army to discuss peace and release of captured soldiers or police. He said he shared the same grievances on issues with the left, except for his view on the armed struggle.
Duazo challenged the Aquino government and the AFP to come out and face the issues they raised.
“We are asserting the issues and voices of the people. This should not be ignored by the government. They should answer the issues on mining, lack of jobs, land and social services, and not resort to neutralizing and threatening the groups,” Duazo said. (davaotoday.com)