31 released from Negros crackdown on progressive groups
BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – The Bacolod City Prosecutor’s Office Wednesday, November 6, ordered the immediate release for lack of probable cause 31 of the 42 individuals arrested last week in raids by law enforcers of the offices of progressive groups here.
The prosecutor said there were no sufficient basis to indict them as they were not members of the communist armed rebel group New People’s Army.
They just happened to be in the premises on October 31 during the simultaneous raids in the offices of leftist party-list Bayan Muna and other progressive groups, added the prosecutor.
Those freed on Wednesday were the 21 laid off workers of a bus company and 10 young members of grassroots cultural group Teatro Obrero.
The Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office earlier hauled all the suspects to its headquarters in Camp Alfredo Montelibano Sr, where it filed charges against them.
The 4 separate resolutions penned by Assistant City Prosecutor Fernand Castro and approved by City Prosecutor officer-in-charge Dennis Jarder, also recommended the filing of the charges against the remaining 11 suspects, 4 of whom could post bail for their temporary liberty.
Those who are facing charges for illegal possesion of firearms and explosives, a non-bailable offense, are:
- Romulo Bito-on Jr, leader of Bayan Muna party-list, and his wife Mermalyn
- Albert Dela Cerna, organizer of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas
- Noli Rosales, secretary-general of Kilusang Mayo Uno-Negros
- Proceso Quiatchon of human rights group Karapatan-Negros
- Karina Dela Cerna
- Cheryl Catalogo
Facing charges for possession of firearms, a bailable offense, are:
- John Milton Lozande, secretary-general of National Federation of Sugar Workers
- Danilo Tabura, also a leader of NFSW
- Roberto Lachica of NFSW
- Mary Ann Kreuger of newly established alternative media outfit Paghimutad
Jose Max Ortiz, counsel of the 21 terminated workers, said the resolution confirmed that his clients were indeed innocent. “They were only there because they want to consult with the KMU on their labor dispute with a transport firm...obviously, my clients are at the right place in a wrong time,” he said.
Ortiz said that the police should have not detained his clients in the first place “because they have to undergo an inconvenience to establish their innocence.”
Richie Remada, one of the terminated workers, said they were innocent of the charges, adding that the experience was traumatic for him.
“I can’t remember what really happened. I’m still in trauma. I have a mental block,” he said.
He said he thought there would be gunfire after the police operatives entered the compound, “I immediately remembered my family, my children,” he added. – Rappler.com