DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Party-list representative assailed the police in Bukidnon who she said “harassed and violated” her and her group’s rights, including the “victims of the frustrated extrajudicial killing” they intended to visit.
Rep. France Castro issued the statement after the Valencia City PNP in Bukidnon blocked her and a solidarity group led by ACT from visiting teachers Zhaydee Cabañelez and Ramil Cabañelez in a hospital earlier this week.
Zhaydee, who’s still recuperating from gunshot wounds, and her husband Ramil survived an attempt on their lives inside a public elementary school in Valencia City last Oct. 15.
The visit was aimed to extend and moral, financial, and legal assistance to the victims, as well as to gather information regarding the assassination try.
However, Castro and the solidarity group were reportedly blocked by armed police personnel and was not allowed to visit the victims despite securing prior consent from the Department of Education (DepEd), Schools Division Superintendent, and the hospital. The group was even accompanied by personnel from the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).
Castro said the PNP has “overstepped their authority—in effect, blocking our solidarity group’s access to the victims.”
By doing so, the PNP, she said, has barred government authorities like her, a member of the House of Representatives, the CHR, and the DepEd School Division Superintendent from extending assistance to the two teachers.
Castro also denied the PNP claim as “utterly absurd and completely false.”
Quoting a Philippine News Agency report published in Oct. 24, Valencia City PNP said they did not allow any visit to Cabañelez because of the victim’s “request for privacy” and that the solon harassed them.
“It was the police who were fully armed, wearing bulletproof vests and plenty in numbers,” Castro said as she questioned the presence of armed police in public places like schools and hospitals. She noted that such “violates domestic and international laws.”
The lawmaker said she will file a House Resolution to investigate the said incident.
Meanwhile, in a separate statement, ACT said the Cabañelez couple are being “held hostage” in their hospital room by government forces.
Raymond Basilio, ACT Secretary General, shared in an interview that the victim’s husband was not allowed to go outside to meet and talk to the solidarity group. Ramil has given consent to the said visit, ACT said. But despite the group’s assertion, they were prevented by the police headed by certain Lt. Angel Vergara.
Vergara, according to ACT, identified himself as an intelligence officer, “purportedly upon orders of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon”.
For its part, the Valencia City Police said it was only doing its job of ensuring that the privacy of the Cabeñelezes will not be violated, per the couple’s request to authorities.
“Our presence in the hospital premises, particularly within the confinement area of Mrs. Cabeñelez is not of our own liking,” said Valencia City Police chief Lt. Col. Surki Sereñas.
Sereñas said they were requested by the couple to secure them while Cabeñelez is recovering from the gunshot wounds.
What’s the motive?
ACT said government forces did not immediately respond to the school shooting and made no efforts to secure neither Teacher Zhaydee nor the rest of Dalit Elementary School. There was also no prompt and thorough investigation.
The group has questioned the motives of the Valencia City PNP and the military especially after their “unreasonable treatment” against the solidarity group led by ACT.
The teachers’ group noted the attack against the Cabañelez couple happened amidst the incidents of red-tagging, harassment, and threats against members and leaders of ACT since last year.
The group denounced the attacks against their ranks and demanded the “state security forces to lay their hands off our teachers and schools.” It added that as educators, it is their “utmost duty to defend human rights and uphold peace, justice, and democracy.” With reports from Jigger J. Jerusalem and Ken E. Cagula (davaotoday.com)