Negros rights advocates launch “Free Rogina Quilop Movement”

By Karl G. Ombion, Bulatlat.Com – BACOLOD City – Rights advocates, kin and friends of detained development worker Rogina Navarro-Quilop launched here early this week the “Free Rogina Quilop Movement” (FRQM) to intensify their coordinated campaign for her release.

Fr. Armand Onion, FRQM coordinator, said during the launching that “the assault on Rogina is an assault on the Filipino people because at the time of her illegal arrest she has dedicated her life in solidarity with the poor.”

“Rogina is a symbol of the struggle of the people for freedom and justice; her freedom will also mean justice for the people,” Fr. Onion added.

Fred Cana, secretary general of Karapatan Negros said Rogina, administrative officer of Bacolod-based non-government service organization Center for People’s Resources and Services (CPRS) and a board director of Ma-ao Parish Multi-Purpose Cooperative Inc. (MPMPCI), was arrested on March 3 at the Bacolod-Silay airport by fully armed elements of Silay City Police Office, Provincial Police Office and civilian operatives believed to be intelligence members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

She was arrested for alleged arson case on the strength of a warrant of arrest issued by Judge Katherine Go of San Carlos City Regional Trial Court.

She was arrested in the presence of her children and husband Joe Quilop who fetched her at the airport. They also confiscated her laptop, micro flash drives, and P 5,000 in cash.

The military and police community insisted that Rogina is an underground personality with aliases “Ka Guia”, “Ka Rowena”, and a secretary of the CPP-NPA Negros regional finance bureau.

Rogina came from a seminar-training on Quickbook System in Cebu, sponsored by a partner funding agency, Cana said.

Her husband also denied military allegations, saying that Rogina is a church-based development work, and physically unfit for the rigors of rebel life.

Rogina is now detained at the Negros Occidental Provincial Jail. Her first arraignment is set on March 23 in San Carlos City RTC Branch 59.

Fabricated Case Cana said Rogina’s arrest stemmed from a complaint affidavit by a certain Gordoncillo who lived in the southern city of Himamaylan linking her with 17 members of New People’s Army and 15 John Does who allegedly burned a sugar transloading station in Toboso.
“It is clearly a fabricated case because the complaint alleged that Rogina was in a meeting March 10, 2010, that was to carry out the burning next day; the burning took place six days after the alleged meeting,” Cana said.

Cana also said “ Rogina’s name only came out in the 5th amended warrant of arrest, together with Romulo Bitoon who was arrested April 5, 2010, three other names, and other John Does; and that the warrant of arrest served to her last March 3 only contained hers and Romulo Bitoon.”

“It is a nightmare to think of remaining 13 John Does in Quilop and Bitoon case because it could be 13 more innocent persons depending on who the military would prefer to incriminate among the ranks of either human rights defenders, peasant or labor leaders, and even development workers assisting the poor and marginalized sectors,” Cana stressed.

Beyond Arson

Rogina’s co-accused, Romulo Bitoon, in an interview with Bulatlat said his case was declared “temporarily dismissed” by Judge Katherine Go in a hearing last March 9 in San Carlos City.

The court decision was given on the basis that the two witnesses and complainant are still nowhere to be found by authorities, said Bitoon.
The “temporary dismissal” is good for two years, after that it could be rendered permanent if witnesses and complainant would still not appear.

When his legal counsel repeatedly insisted for permanent dismissal for lack of a real case, the judge reportedly got angry and was quoted by the counsel as having said that the “there is more to this case, this is beyond the case..”

At that point Bitoon and his counsel said they understood clearly what the judge meant to say, and thus accepted partially the order of “temporary dismissal”.

Bitoon said his case is “clearly a criminal assault on their political beliefs and legitimate work with the people; it is nothing more than political persecution.”

Nothing Changed under the Aquino administration

Cana said the case of Bitoon, the incarceration of Rogina and dozens other political detainees, and thousands being demonized, persecuted and face arrest, are just proof that nothing really substantive has changed in the human rights situation under the Aquino administration despite its promises of political reforms and the AFP and PNP’s declared commitment to human rights protection.

“The fact is that the failed brutal Oplan bantay laya I and II of the AFP continues unrelentlessly under new name Oplan bayanihan,” Cana said.

He stressed that “in Negros it is obvious; there is massive build up of military combat troops in rural areas now almost 5 regular combat battalions including CAFGU and special paramilitary units led by RPA-ABB; ongoing search and destroy operations cloaked in development missions; intensified intelligence operations; vilification and demonization of mass leaders and activists; criminalization of legitimate demands and struggles of the basic masses for right to land, jobs, education, services, peaceful abode and movement.”

He also said that since President Benigno Aquino III assumed power Negros already had two cases of extra judicial killing, more harassment of civilians including children in rural areas, and 14 cases of arrest mostly involving the filing of fabricated cases.

“Assault on human rights is not slowing down as claimed by official sources, instead it is intensifying on all fronts,” he added.

“If I may have to conclude, the human rights situation is bound to worsen because more and more people are rising up and fighting for lands, jobs, education which government does not respond to fairly except by the use of fascist force,” Cana concluded.#

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