Police arrested old, sickly activist leader on kidnapping, murder warrants

Sep. 05, 2022

Photo from Gabriela Women’s Party’s Facebook page

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Police authorities have arrested an ailing senior citizen in Barangay Kinabjangan, Nasipit town, in Agusan del Norte on allegation that she was a member of the communist New People’s Army (NPA).

The police said 76-year-old Atheliana “Atel” Hijos was involved in an encounter between NPA guerillas and the military in Agusan del Norte on November 20, 2019, which resulted in the killing of Corporal Mario Suson. It also claimed she was involved in the kidnapping of a militiaman in 2018.

Following these allegations, Hijos was between 72 to 73 years old when the incidents happened.

Hijos was apprehended on August 30 and was charged with murder, kidnapping, and serious illegal detention with warrants of arrest issued by the regional courts of two Agusan provinces. She was tagged as the “4th most wanted NPA rebel” in the Caraga region.

Human rights group Karapatan has condemned the arrest saying it is “yet another reprehensible act that shows how the judicial system is being weaponized against human rights defenders.”

Hijos fought the Marcos dictatorship in her younger days. She is the current secretary general of women’s rights group Gabriela in Caraga region.

“How can an elderly and sickly woman, with such frail built like Atel’s, possibly commit all the crimes alleged against her?” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan’s secretary general.

Palabay said Hijos has pulmonary tuberculosis, hypertension, and suffered from a mild stroke. “She has been bedridden, and has difficulties walking, at times using a wheelchair,” she added.

Multiple Facebook posts from 2015 up to 2018 showed Hijos needing assistance from others while carrying out legitimate activities. She ran for a local elective post in Butuan City in 2018.

Karapatan expressed concern for the consecutive arrests of human rights and environmental defenders in Caraga. As of July 2022, there are 92 political prisoners, 22 of them are women.

“With all these cases filed in Caraga courts, the region has become a warrant factory where trumped-up charges against activists are cooked up to suppress their voices and stifle political dissent,” Karapatan said.

Those who were arrested like Hijos, Karapatan said, have been subjected to red-tagging through numerous posters and fliers bearing her name and picture disseminated by the military in public places in Caraga.

In Mindanews and Inquirer reports on Friday, September 2, Maj. Jennifer Ometer, public information officer of the Police Regional Office (PRO) 13, confirmed that Hijos is placed under the custody of the Regional Intelligence Division of PRO 13.

Ometer, however, did not disclose where Hijos was detained. (davaotoday.com)

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