44 activists arrested in Negros crackdown charged

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – The 44 individuals suspected of being members of the armed communist rebel group New People's Army were charged here Monday, November 4, with illegal possession of firearms, ammunition, and explosives.

Additional charges for qualified human trafficking against the 6 suspects were also filed on Tuesday, November 5.

The filing of the cases was done at Camp Alfredo Montelibano Sr here, headquarters of the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office, for security reasons since 9 of the 57 arrested suspects were considered by the army as "high-value" individuals, said Captain Cenon Pancito III, chief of public affairs office of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division based in Jamindan, Capiz.

Among those who were charged and considered as high-value targets were:

It was Friday, October 31 that the 42 suspects, along with 13 minors, were arrested during the simultaneous raids in the offices of leftist party-list Bayan Muna and other progressive organizations here.

These groups have been accused of being “legal fronts” of the rebel movement.

The Army and the police claimed the compound, where scores of firearms and grenades were supposedly recovered, served as a “training area” for young rebel recruits.

Also among those arrested and charged were the 21 laid off workers of the Ceres Bus line who were there to consult with the KMU leader, and youth members of grassroots cultural group Teatro Obrero who were there for rehearsal.

Lawyer Jose Max Ortiz is seeking the release of the 21 persons who were innocent as they only happened to be inside the KMU office during the raid.

Pancito, for his part, said all those arrested will have the opportunity to defend themselves in court.

Aside from the raids in Bacolod, two more arrests were made in Escalante City the following day, November 1. Arrested were NFSW staff Imelda Sultan and Ma. Lindy Perucho. They allegedly yielded firearms and grenade launchers.

The raids were on the strength of the search warrants issued by Quezon City Regional Trial Court Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert.

Progressive groups have questioned the jurisdiction of the judge who issued the search warrants, but the Supreme Court maintained the judge was authorized to issue the said warrants. – Rappler.com