[Urgent Appeal] A union member of the Albay Labor Employees Organization (ALEO) was illegally arrested and harassed by police authorities in Albay Province. -TFDP

URGENT APPEAL
August 28, 2014

(Philippines) A union member of the Albay Labor Employees Organization (ALEO) was illegally arrested and harassed by police authorities in Albay Province.

Photo TFDP

Dear friends,

The Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) is forwarding to you an appeal regarding the arbitrary arrest and harassment by the police against a member of a labor union, and the threat and intimidation done to his colleague.

If you wish to make any inquiries please contact the Research, Documentation and Information Program of TFDP at: 45 St. Mary Street, Cubao, Quezon City, Philippines 1109; email: tfdp.urgentappeals@gmail.com and tfdp.1974@gmail.com; or call: +632 4378054.

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Case Title: Barcelon ARD and De Vera HAR
Case: Unlawful Arrest and Detention and Harassment
Name of victims: 1) Rommel Barcelon; 2) Ephraim De Vera
Date of Incident: July 16 and 17, 2014
Place of Incident: Albay Electric Cooperative (ALECO) main office at W. Vinzons Street, Old Albay
Alleged perpetrators: Legazpi Chief Police Superintendent Alex S. Pederio; Senior Police Officer Velasco; Police Officer 2 Balderama; PO2 Taduran; Police Officer Julius Romano; and Police Officer Castuera
Motive: Harassment against union members and workers opposing the privatization of an electric cooperative

Account of the Incident:

A union member of the Albay Labor Employees Organization (ALEO) and Albay Electric Cooperative (ALECO) was illegally arrested and harassed by police authorities in Albay.

Rommel Barcelon, an active member of ALECO, was arrested and detained on July 16, 2014, allegedly on charges of violating the Anti-Pilferage Law (Republic Act 7832 or an act penalizing the pilferage of electricity and theft of electric power transmission lines and or materials).

Barcelon was cleaning the area near the picket line of the ALEO when he was approached by Francisco Hoazel. Barcelon was requested by Hoazel to fix the drop wire (electrical wiring) in a nearby lamppost that was detached due to the recent typhoon Glenda in order to avoid accident.

Having a background of being an electrical lineman, Barcelon generously attempted to do the work when a certain Paulino Belga, the private chief security of Albay Power Energy Corporation (APEC)—who fully assumed the management and operation of ALECO, accused Barcelon of pilferage. Barcelon decided to discontinue his work and went down with the drop wire and his tools.

After about ten minutes, a police mobile car with Senior Police Officer Velasco and Police Officer Taduran passed by the area. Belga asked the police for assistance, claiming that Barcelon committed pilferage.

Police Officers Velasco and Taduran invited Barcelon to the police precinct supposedly for some clarification. But when they arrived at the police station in Legazpi City, a police blotter was immediately executed against Barcelon. Also, a certain Police Julius Romano was so agitated and wanted to detain Barcelon. Fortunately, several of Barcelon’s colleagues and friends went to the police station. They argued that the arrest was illegal because there was no evidence that will prove Barcelon committed pilferage or illegal connection. Eventually, the police released Barcelon.

On July 17, 2014, a day after the incident, Legazpi Police Chief Alex S. Pederio, a certain Officer Castuera, and seven other police in plain clothes arrived at the ALECO/ALEO picket protest area and grabbed Barcelon. They immediately handcuffed him and accused him as an escapee.

Ephraim De Vera, Aleco Labor and Employees Union secretary, talked to Pederio and pleaded to release Barcelon since they do not have an arrest warrant. Pederio replied and threatened De Vera to be arrested for obstruction of justice if they insist and continue to impede the arrest of Barcelon. Finally, Barcelon was brought to the precinct and was detained.

Atty. Riche Regala, the lawyer of the labor union arrived at the police station. He argued that Barcelon should not be detained without any reason. Regala asserted that there is no basis or hard evidence of the alleged violations or crime. He added that they should not arrest and detain a person, and then build the case later. Regala warned Pederio that if they will continue to detain Barcelon, he will file a complaint against them.

Later that day, Barcelon was released.

Background Information:

Rommel Barcelon is one of the active members of ALECO/ALEO previously on strike and in dispute with San Miguel Energy Corporation (SMEC) who fully assume the management and operation of ALECO, which later on changed its name to Albay Power Energy Corp (APEC).

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has ordered the employees (including Barcelon) of Albay Electric Cooperative (ALECO) to return to work to bring back normal operations and transactions. This was issued in January 2014, but without any reason, APEC ignored the order and allegedly banned Barcelon and other workers even if they were willing, ready and able to provide services for the rehabilitation of Albay’s power infrastructure.

The DOLE has intervened in the labor dispute at the cooperative as tension escalated frequently. Workers have been on strike since last year against the takeover of the SMEC. SMEC is the sole bidder of the concession agreement signed on October 29, 2013.

Sample letter:

Dear___________,

I am writing to draw your attention regarding the arbitrary arrest and harassment by the police against a member of a labor union, and the threat and intimidation done to his colleague.

Rommel Barcelon, an active member of Albay Labor Employees Organization (ALEO) and Albay Electric Cooperative (ALECO) was arrested and detained on July 16, 2014, allegedly on charges of violating the Anti-Pilferage Law (Republic Act 7832 or an act penalizing the pilferage of electricity and theft of electric power transmission lines and or materials).

Before the arrest, Barcelon together with other labor union members were on strike to protest against San Miguel Energy Corporation’s (SMEC) takeover and assumption of management and operation of ALECO, which later on changed its name to Albay Power Energy Corp (APEC).

Based on report, Barcelon was requested by a neighbor to fix a drop wire (electrical wiring) which was disconnected (caused by Typhoon Glenda) in a nearby lamppost in order to avoid accident. Having a background of being an electrical lineman, Barcelon generously attempted to do the work when a certain Paulino Belga, the private chief security of APEC, accused Barcelon of pilferage. Belga then sought the assistance of Senior Police Officer Velasco and Police Officer Taduran who invited Barcelon to the police station for questioning. At the station, the police attempted to detain Barcelon. Fortunately, his colleagues resisted and argued that the arrest was illegal. Eventually, the police released Barcelon, supposedly due to lack of evidence.

But I have also learned that on July 17, 2014, the day after the incident, the police headed by Legazpi Police Chief Alex S. Pederio, returned to the picket line and arrested Barcelon.

It was also brought to our attention that Ephraim De Vera, ALECO Labor and Employees Union secretary, talked to Pederio and pleaded to release Barcelon since they do not have an arrest warrant. Pederio replied and threatened De Vera to be arrested for obstruction of justice if they insist and continue to impede the arrest of Barcelon. Finally, Barcelon was brought to the precinct and was detained.

Later that day, Atty Riche Regala, the lawyer of the labor union arrived at the police station. He argued that Barcelon should not be detained without any reason. Regala asserted that there was no basis or hard evidence of the alleged violation or crime.

From what I have learned, Rommel Barcelon is one of the active members of ALECO/ALEO previously on strike and in dispute with San Miguel Energy Corporation (SMEC).

Furthermore, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has ordered the employees (including Barcelon) of Albay Electric Cooperative (ALECO) to return to work to bring back normal operations and transactions. This was issued in January 2014, but without any reason APEC ignored the order and allegedly banned Barcelon and other workers even if they were willing, ready and able to provide services for the rehabilitation of Albay’s power infrastructure.

Until now, there are reports that protesting workers are being harassed by the APEC management.

We now urge you to call upon competent authorities to carry out a prompt, effective, thorough, independent and impartial investigation or inquiry into these events, and ensure that adequate, effective and prompt action is granted favorably to Rommel Barcelon, Ephraim De Vera and members of ALEO and former APECO.

Lastly, we hope that the government will continue to guarantee the respect of human rights and the fundamental freedoms enshrined in the 1987 Philippine Constitution and international human rights standards, and to subject violators for appropriate penalties punishment under Philippine Laws.

I look forward to your urgent action in this case.
Yours sincerely,

______________________

Please send your letters to:

1. Hon. Benigno Simeon Aquino III
President
Republic of the Philippines
Malacanang Palace
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel
Manila 1005
Philippines
Fax: +63 2 736 1010
Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80
Email: corres@op.gov.ph / opnet@op.gov.ph

2. Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz
Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)
Building, Muralla Wing cor. General Luna St., Intramuros,
City of Manila, 1002
Philippines
Tel No: 527-3000 loc. 701, 703, 704, 706, 707
Fax No: 336-8182
Email: secrdb@dole.gov.ph

3. Chairperson Loretta Ann P. Rosales
Commission on Human Rights (CHR)
SAAC Bldg., Commonwealth Avenue
U.P. Complex, Diliman
Quezon City
Philippines
Tel: +63 2 928 5655, +63 2 926 6188
Fax: +63 2929 0102
Email: rosales.chr@gmail.com

4. Police Director General Alan LA Madrid Purisima
Chief, Philippine National Police
Camp General Rafael Crame
Quezon City, Philippines
Fax: +63 2 724 8763/ +63 2 723 0401
Tel: + 63 2 726 4361/4366/8763
Email: feedback@pnp.gov.ph

5. Bureau for Workers’ Activities
International Labor Organization (ILO)
Tel: +41 22 799 70 21
Fax: +41 22 799 65 70
Website: http://www.ilo.org/actrav
Email: actrav@ilo.org

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