4 November 2019
Asia Pacific Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines Condemns Mass Arrest of Activists in Negros and Metro Manila
The Asia Pacific Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (APCHRP) condemns the arrest of 57 people and six minors following simultaneous armed raids by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on the offices of Bayan Muna, Gabriela and the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, during the early hours of 31 October 2019. Those apprehended in the Negros raids and arrests are members of democratic and progressive mass organizations — they are all unarmed civilians.
Two more activists in Metro Manila: Cora Agovida of Gabriela and Michael Tan Bartolome of Kadamay Metro Manila including their children (now in the custody of Children Rehabilitation Center) were also arrested by operatives who forced their way into their home. This blatant harassment of activist organizations is a recurring theme in the Duterte administration, which has sought to silence dissent by the use of state forces.
The raids are further evidence that the Philippines under the Administration of Rodrigo Duterte is descending into despotic rule. Dawn raids and mass arrests of activists are an eerie reminder of the crackdowns on political oppositions which took place under the early years of the Marcos’ martial law dictatorship in the 1970s.
Since Duterte issued Memorandum 32 in November 2018, ordering extra military and police to be deployed to Negros, Samar and Bicol, coupled with his Executive Order 70 that institutionalizes a “whole nation approach” in attaining an “inclusive and sustainable peace” and created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTFELCAC), state attacks and vilification of human rights defenders, trade unionists and other advocates for the poor have escalated.
The AFP and PNP claim the arrested activists were in possession of weapons and were active in the insurgency of the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army. However, eye-witnesses report that plain clothes officers entered the compound prior to the “discovery” of weapons components. Planting weapons on suspects and accusing critics of being “communists” are routine in the Philippines.
The arrested members of Bayan Muna, Gabriela, NFSW and Kadamay were simply exercising their rights under the Philippine Constitution and international human rights treaties, to which the Philippine is a party, to organize and advocate on behalf of the downtrodden and marginalized.
APCHRP calls for the immediate release of the arrested activists and for an end to the Duterte administration’s war on human rights defenders.
Stop planting evidences and the filing of trumped-up charges against civilians, activists!
Free All Political Prisoners!
We call on the Australian Government to stop military aid to the Philippines!
Peter Murphy: +61 418 312 301
Sr. Patricia Fox: +61 423 233 152