Karapatan strongly condemns the raid of the offices of Gabriela, Bayan Muna and the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) in Bacolod City on the evening of October 31, 2019. Police operatives used a search warrant issued by Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert of Branch 89 of the Regional Trial Court in Quezon City to target the three offices. The use of search warrants has become a trend increasingly used in Negros, which makes offices and individuals vulnerable to the planting of evidence. With the leadership of state forces in Negros who have been given the go signal by the Duterte government to kill, lie, fabricate, and unleash State terrorism to the full, the recent incidents indicate a full-blown crackdown on activists and red-tagged legal organizations.
Suspiciously, the search warrant used in the raid in Negros was issued by a court from Quezon City. Back in March 2019, the search warrant used for the simultaneous operations targeting peasant activists in Negros was also issued from a different region, particularly in Cebu. As of this writing, Karapatan is still trying to verify additional information on the said incident, including the reported warrantless arrests of several individuals.
We stand with these organizations and assert that these attacks are acts of reprisal for the campaigns and criticisms raised by these organizations against the government’s failures. All three organizations are operating legally, and to allege that they are “legal fronts” of the Communist Party of the Philippines is baseless. Lest we remind this government, freedom of association and the right to petition the government for redress are enshrined in the Constitution. Criticism and protest should not be tantamount to incessant red-tagging and political persecution. Likewise, this incident attests to the dangers individuals and organizations face amid red-tagging. It is a reminder that red-tagging is a prelude to graver violations.
Karapatan also links this crackdown in Negros to the recent arrests in Metro Manila, involving an activist couple. At around 5am today, October 31, Cora Agovida, Gabriela Metro Manila spokesperson and Mickael Tan Bartolome, Kadamay Metro Manila member, were illegally arrested by operatives who forcefully entered their home. Operatives of the CIDG and the Metro Manila Police District (MPD) allegedly showed a search warrant.
This is another case indicating a crackdown against activists. All elements, including the use of illegal possession of firearms and explosives to charge activists, are glaring in this latest arrest targeting critics of the government.
These arrests are orchestrated, following a trend and now concentrated in specific areas. The monsters who have used Negros as a laboratory for harrowing human rights violations are now terrorizing Metro Manila.
Negros and Metro Manila are hotspots. Along with martial law in Mindanao, the de facto martial law in Negros under Memorandum Order No. 32, and the Implan Kalasag in Metro Manila, we are to face the worst. This is on top of operations manned by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapanatagan. We enjoin all organizations to be vigilant, especially in the coming days.
As we condemn these attacks, we assert the right of organizations and individuals to continue with their advocacy. If this is an indication of what is to come, we call for unity and resistance amid State terrorism. #StopTheAttacks
Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Secretary-General
Karapatan Public Information Desk
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