Military denies 'harassment' in arresting alleged communist rebels
MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Thursday, November 7, denied that members of progressive groups were harassed when they were arrested recently by the police and military over alleged links to the communist New People's Army (NPA).
"There was no harassment. How can there be one if the search is covered by appropriate warrants issued by the court?" AFP Spokesperson Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo said in a statement sent to reporters, adding that the judge who issued the warrants found probable cause and "sufficient grounds" to search the groups' offices in Bacolod City on October 31, and in Manila on November 5.
Arevalo was responding to Bayan Muna Chairperson Neri Colmenares and Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate, as well as other leaders of progressive groups, who accused the military of "harassment" in enforcing the Duterte administration's "creeping martial rule" and "crackdown on dissent."
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), which oversees the Philippine National Police, earlier issued a statement similar to the military's. On Wednesday, November 6, DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya denied the government was cracking down on militant groups, saying the raids were "normal law enforcement operations" sanctioned with warrants from a legal court.
Police and military personnel arrested 56 people and rescued 6 minors when they simultaneously raided offices of Bayan Muna, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Gabriela Women's Party, and the National Federation of Sugar Workers in Bacolod City on October 31. They reported recovering firearms, ammunition, and explosives from the offices.
At least 31 of the 56 suspects have reportedly been released, and the cases against them dismissed by the Bacolod City Prosecutor.
At past midnight on Tuesday, November 5, police raided the office of the group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) in Tondo, Manila, and arrested 3 members of the groups Bayan Muna, Manila Workers Unity, and Kadamay Manila.
The search warrants for both raids were issued by Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 89 Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos Villavert.
Also on Tuesday, the AFP and the Department of National Defense presented a list of 18 groups they said were "front organizations" of the "communist terrorist group," referring to the NPA. The list included Gabriela Women's Party.
Fearing more raids, several progressive groups asked the Commission on Human Rights to inspect their offices in Quezon City on Wednesday, "to deprive the police any opportunity to plant evidence," the groups said.
Arevalo on Thursday challenged the groups to prove that law enforcers had planted firearms, ammunition, and explosives as evidence against them.
"There is this legal maxim that says, 'He who makes the assertions has the burden of proving his claim,'" the military spokesperson said, adding that the lawmen who carried out the searches and arrests were "clothed with presumption of regularity" because they carried warrants from a court of law.
"No one is above the law. By claiming that they are legitimate organizations does not make them exempted from legal processes," Arevalo said, adding, "if they feel aggrieved, the proper resort is with the courts." – Rappler.com