BACOLOD CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) – Local authorities here arrested 56 persons suspected of being members of the communist rebel group New People’s Army and rescued 6 minors in simultaneous raids of the offices of 4 progressive organizations early Thursday night, October 31.
Armed with 4 search warrants issued by a judge in the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, members of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Western Visayas, in coordination with the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (3ID), Joint Task Force-Negros and Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office, swooped in to the offices of party-list group Bayan Muna, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), and Gabriela in Barangay Bata, and the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) at Barangay Taculing, and another office in Barangay 33.
Law enforcers have accused the progressive groups of being “legal fronts” of the rebel movement.
Among those arrested were:
- John Milton Lozande, secretary-general of NFSW
- Danny Tabura, also a leader of NFSW
- Noly Rosales, secretary-general of KMU
- Aldrin Dela Cerna, organizer of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Negros
- Proceso Quiatchon of human rights group Karapatan-Negros
- Romulo Bito-on Jr, leader of Bayan Muna party-list, and his wife Mermalyn
- Anne Kreuger, of newly established alternative media outfit Paghimutad
Captain Cenon Pancito III, chief of public affairs office of the 3ID, said the raided offices were considered as “training centers” of newly-recruit young individuals trained by the NPA to become “child warriors” who will then join the rebel’s liquidation team that targets the government.
The raiding teams also recovered high-powered firearms and an explosive at the offices.
Pancito said the operations came after they received reports from concerned citizens against some of these individuals for illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
He said, “this is a big blow against these organizations for carrying illegal weapons.” He added this is a good effort on the part of the army and the police to establish genuine peace and order in Negros Island.
The minors, meanwhile, were brought to the Department of Social Welfare and Development while the others were placed under the custody of the provincial police in Camp Alfredo Montelibano Sr for further investigation and the filing of charges.
Michael de la Concepcion, secretary-general of Bayan Negros, assailed the operations, as he claimed the recovered firearms and explosive were planted evidence.
He also denied the arrested persons were affiliated with the rebel movement.
Gabriela also condemned the simultaneous raids, claiming the raiding teams planted firearms and explosives in the offices, and forcibly took minors whose parents were among those arrested.
“We vehemently condemned the use of spurious search warrants to orchestrate raids and mass arrests based on fabricated evidence against members and leaders of legitimate people’s organizations,” they said in a statement.
The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, in a statement, said the raids and arrests are “outright overkill and illegal,” adding that those arrested must be released unscathed.
“These vile acts attacking civil liberties deliberately intends to sow terror and fear across Bacolod City and Negros Island anew… the conduct of these mass raids were clearly illegal and unjust that the raiding teams had to come up with preposterous accusations that the civilians were allegedly conducting firearms and explosives training in the offices,” the statement said.
The BPO Industry Employees Network also condemned the illegal arrest of Krueger, organizer of its Bacolod chapter.
“This is part of the Duterte government’s crackdown on unionists and activists. It follows a similar pattern of attacks wherein unionists, organizers and activists are arrested with the aid of faulty warrants and planting of evidence during raids,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, members of Gabriela and Kadamay picketed Thursday the Manila Police District Headquarters along United Nations Avenue in Manila to condemn the arrest of their members in Paco, Manila. The group said Manila police nabbed Gabriela-Metro Manila spokeperson Cora Agovida, and Kadamay–Metro Manila officer Mickael Bartolome.
In a related development Bayan Muna Representative Ferdinand Gaite also slammed the simultaneous raids of the offices of its party-list group, Gabriela, and NFSW in Bacolod.
“This new wave of crackdown unleashed by the Marcos incarnate Duterte must be condemned and opposed. We will not let this dictator-wannabe succeed in his demonic project to silence the critics of his anti-people and anti-democratic regime,” Gaite said in a statement on Friday, November 1.
Gaite added: “Bayan Muna and other progressive organizations are being targeted as they have been staunch critics of Duterte’s innumerable and insufferable anti-Filipino policies.” – Rappler.com