Activists cite ‘irregularities’ in raids, arrests

By: Glazyl Y. Masculino

BACOLOD City – The members of the fact-finding mission solidarity team composed of militant leaders and members of the Makabayan Bloc noted some irregularities in the series of raids and mass arrests of 42 civilians and 13 minors tagged as activists here last week.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) spokesperson Teddy Casiño, along with Makabayan chair Neri Colmenares, Bayan Muna party-list Representative Carlos Zarate, Gabriela party-list Representative Arlene Brosas, and former Agrarian Reform secretary Rafael Mariano, who is also the chair of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, arrived here Wednesday for a two-day fact-finding mission to probe the recent raids and arrests carried out by state forces.

Based on the results of their fact-finding mission, Casiño said that the judge who issued the search warrants has no idea about Bacolod, which he claimed is prone to abuse and misinformation.

In a press briefing at the Negros Press Club (NPC) here last Thursday, Casiño said that 11 search warrants were issued by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 89 last October 31.

Of the 11 search warrants, four were applied here, three in Escalante City, and two in Manila.

Casiño said that two more warrants are unaccounted for.

He also noted that there was abuse on the part of the Philippine National Police (PNP) officers who applied the search warrants because of forcible entries and blatantly ordering occupants to vacate the offices during the search.

“Anything could happen. And this will lead to “planting of evidence,” he said, as he questioned the authorities’ claim that firearms and explosives were casually scattered in tables and cabinets.

He also claimed maltreatment of the detainees.

He also noted the vilification of the arrested civilians to justify the crackdown of the government on the legitimate and legal organizations.

“That is the danger there.  If they can do that to militant organizations, how much more to ordinary people? It is a danger to everyone’s rights and democracy,” he said.

Casiño said the series of raids here and in Negros Occidental caused alarm in national organizations and leaders based in the National Capital Region (NCR) because it is the first time since Martial Law that there was mass arrest of people’s organizations.

Casiño said they decided to open their national offices in Manila to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and barangay officials to let them see what’s inside their offices and to also pre-empt a raid since two more warrants are unaccounted for.

“What happens here and in Negros is apparently a laboratory for a national crackdown, and we’re afraid if this won’t be prevented or stopped,” he added.

“The situation here is very urgent. This is different because 57 were arrested in simultaneous raids on the legal and public offices of the people’s organizations,” he said. “This is unprecedented since the martial law years,” he added.

A total of 31 civilians were released last Wednesday after the City Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the two complaints for illegal possession of firearms and ammunition and illegal possession of explosives filed against them for lack of probable cause, but 11 other militant leaders were indicted and are still under police custody.

The groups are demanding the government to stop the attacks and the vilification of cause-oriented groups and the people’s organizations, following the series of raids at the offices of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Gabriela, and National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) here last week.

“Ayaw na naming mangyari ito sa iba. We will continue our engagement in Negros to ensure that the rights of not just activists and people’s organizations but everyone who dares to oppose, and criticize the policies and wrong governance of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte will not be violated.

The groups are also positive that the 11 remaining activists will also be released soon.

Meanwhile, Capt. Cenon Pancito III, spokesperson of Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (ID), maintained that “from the very start, they have made their efforts within the legal boundaries, and there was no planting of evidence that happened during the operation.

He also reiterated that the fact still remains that there is crime committed (illegal possession of firearms and explosives) at the said offices here, with the charges filed against the 11 militant leaders.