DAVAO CITY, Philippines – A local anti-mining activist was arrested by police and military forces in South Cotabato on Friday, May 2, for his alleged participation in the underground communist movement.
Romeo Rivera, was nabbed in his house in Purok Lower San Juan, Barangay San Roque in Koronadal City at around 12:45 pm. Rivera, authorities assert, is also known as NPA-Guerrilla Front 72 secretary Felix Armodia.
Captain Alberto Caber, public affairs chief of the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command, said Rivera operated and led a band of New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in the areas of Davao del Sur, South Cotabato, and North Cotabato.
“He was responsible for the series of attacks on plantations and construction firms in the region that do not give in to their extortion demands,” Caber said.
Rivera was arrested for murder, robbery with violence and illegal detention, the military official added.
Caber said Rivera was immediately brought to the Digos City Police headquarters for detention while waiting for the trial of his cases.
‘It’s not him’
However, the local chapter of human rights group Karapatan asserted that Rivera is not Armodia and that he is not a member or leader of the NPA.
Rivera’s family and local activists said friends and neighbors can attest that the 52-year-old carpenter is not connected to the NPA.
Karapatan said Rivera is a known convener of the local chapter of the environment group Panalipdan.
Rivera and the entire Panalipdan network campaigned to stop large-scale mining in Mindanao, particularly against XSTRATA-SMI in South Cotabato, Sarangani and Davao del Sur.
Sadrach Sabella, spokesperson of Karapatan-Socksargen, said armed men in civilian clothing aboard a Toyota Hilux and a Toyota Tamaraw FX suddenly barged into the house of Rivera.
Sabella said Rivera’s 19-year-old son Ariel narrated that the armed men suddenly handcuffed his father and covered his eyes with a handkerchief.
The armed men made Rivera wear a baseball cap to cover his face and was immediately dragged outside his home and put in a pick-up truck, Sabella said.
“Ariel tried to resist and help his father but one of the armed men kicked him and forced him to lie down on the ground. A relative also tried to help but was also manhandled. The soldiers also tried to take him away with them,” Sabella added.
“No warrants were produced by the police and military during the arrest which would only mean that Rivera was abducted,” Sabella said.
Immediate release demanded
While being transported, Rivera was allegedly transferred to a van before he was brought to Digos City. Karapatan said Rivera told them the armed men threatened to kill him if he does not cooperate and if he does not confess that he is Armodia.
Rivera’s arrest is probably connected to his involvement in the anti-mining campaign, Sabella said.
Sabella appealed for the immediate release of Rivera and investigation and punishment of the state security forces involved in the incident. The military insists they got the right man.
Lt. General Ricardo Rainier G. Cruz III, commander of the Eastmincom, immediately applauded the military for the arrest. “There shall be no let-up of pursuit operations in the arrest of Felix Armodia,” Cruz said. – Rappler.com