Gabriela condemns arrest of women rights worker in Caraga

Jun. 04, 2018

Nerita de Castro, women rights worker accused by the military as a high-ranking New People’s Army official was arrested on May 31, 2018 in Barangay Ambago, Butuan City by elements from the 402nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division and units from the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Caraga Region. (Photo from PIO AFP-Eastern Mindanao Command)

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The recent arrest of a women rights worker in Caraga region is another misogynistic move of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) with the aim of silencing women who refuse to cower in fear in the face of the continuing imposition of martial law in Mindanao.

This was the claim made by the group Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) in a statement they issued on Sunday, as they condemned the arrest of Nerita de Castro whom the military accused of being a high-ranking officer of the New People’s Army (NPA), a finance officer of the rebel’s commission in Mindanao, and the secretary of the white area committee in Northeastern Mindanao.

The AFP’s Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom), in a press release last June 1 reported that De Castro was arrested by a combined Inter-Agency Law Enforcement Operations composed of elements from 402nd Brigade, the 4th Infantry Division and units from the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Caraga Region.

De Castro was arrested on May 31 at around 12:40 in the morning at Emenville Subdivision in Barangay Ambago, Butuan City.

Eastmincom said De Castro was arrested by virtue of a warrant of arrest under criminal case number 183304 for murder issued by Judge Lilibeth O. Ladaga of the Regional Trial Court 11, Judicial Branch 28, in Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

But the arrest was the government’s way of making up offenses, the GWP maintained, as De Castro’s apprehension was based on trumped-up charges and of crimes she did not commit.

“The arrest is meant to sow fear among the people of Caraga who dare to expose and criticize President Duterte and his military and police’s misogynistic and anti-people actions,” the GWP added.

GWP also accused the military of denying De Castro’s right to call her family and lawyer and inform them of her arrest and condition.

“Despite her constant demand for a lawyer while being interrogated, she was denied her right to be accompanied by counsel when questioned by state agents,” the GWP said.

The group added that aside from the inter-agency forces mentioned as part of the arresting team, elements from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) from Davao City and people from the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) also took part during the interrogation of De Castro.

The 402nd Brigade was so quick to claim that De Castro is a high-ranking NPA member in order to be rewarded, the GWP added.

“Only a day since her arrest three trumped-up murder and one trumped-up frustrated murder charges were allegedly filed against her,” the group said, adding that De Castro is a small businesswoman who devoted part of her time towards the promotion of women’s rights in Caraga region.

“She has been a volunteer of GWP since 2006 and actively participated in its activities, including exposing and condemning extrajudicial killings, calling for the lifting of martial law, criticizing Duterte’s misogyny, the oppressive TRAIN law, and various human rights abuses in Caraga,” GWP said.

The group added that De Castro also worked actively in the establishment of networks for women victimized by violence.

“She is a human rights advocate, working fulltime first with the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) during the 1980’s under Marcos’ Martial law when her brother was tortured by the military, and for Karapatan-Surigao del Sur during the 1990’s until around 2006 when she focused on her small buy and sell business for her children’s education,” GWP added.

De Castro also served as the Executive Director of Pulso Micro Media Services (PMMS) from 1990’s until 2006.

PMMS was then the media apostolate of the Diocese of Tandag in Surigao del Sur, under its Social Action Center (SAC).

“De Castro’s arrest is but another example of the US-Duterte’s tyranny and shows that his extended martial law in Mindanao is a weapon meant to quell resistance against his anti-people policies,” the group asserted.

The arrest also showed Duterte’s affront of encountering women who resist his fascism and his need to subjugate them.

“We demand the immediate release of Nerita de Castro, the dismissal of the obviously trumped-up charges against her and demand the firing of those responsible for the wrongful arrest of an ordinary civilian,” GWP concluded. (

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