Ibon Foundation alarmed over 'police inspection' notice

MANILA, Philippines – A policy research group on Thursday, November 7, reported receiving information about an impending warrant of arrest against an alleged tenant in their office building.

In a statement, Ibon Foundation said that a person, who identified himself as an official from the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), called at 3 pm, notifying the group "of their intent to conduct an ocular inspection as they have a criminal case" against someone who doesn't hold office in the building.

The person on the other line, who identified himself as a certain Colonel Joaquin Alva, said they would still conduct the inspection regardless. 

No inspection has occurred as of 11:30 pm Thursday.

"This is alarming and we believe that this is part of the Duterte government's worsening crackdown on activists upholding human rights and so critical of retrogressive policies and authoritarian governance," Ibon Foundation said. 

Alva, now the chief of staff of the PNP Legal Service, denied his involvement or making the call. 

In a phone call to Rappler, he said that he had been out of the NCRPO for 8 years, and that there had been past instances of people using names of police officers assigned to the regional office.

Part of crackdown?

Ibon Foundation, a research group focusing on socioeconomic issues, was previously tagged by the Philippine government as among groups whose funding was allegedly being used by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA). It has previously experienced cyberattacks against its website

The incident comes after a series of arrests and raids against progressive groups in Manila and Bacolod in a week. 

At least 56 persons affiliated with Bayan Muna, Kilusang Mayo Uno Gabriela, the National Federation of Sugar Workers, and other progressive organizations were arrested by police in Bacolod City on October 31, while two members from Gabriela-Metro Manila and Kadamay were arrested in Paco, Manila. 

Three more were detained during a raid of Bayan's office in Tondo, Manila, past midnight Tuesday, November 5.

The search warrants were issued by Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 89 Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos Villavert. (READ: Crackdown? Same QC judge issues search warrants vs activists in Manila, Bacolod)

Authorities accused those arrested of being members of "legal fronts" of the CPP, in line with the government's anti-insurgency programs. 

Progressive groups, however, said the firearms and explosives recovered during the raids were planted and that the attacks are part of a widespread "de facto martial law" under President Rodrigo Duterte. (READ: Fearing more raids and arrests, progressive groups get CHR to inspect offices)

The Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines on November 5 identified 18 organizations as communist fronts, including Gabriela Women's Party, National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Oxfam sa Pilipinas, and Farmers Development Center.

According to rights group Karapatan, at least 2,370 human rights defenders have been charged by the government from 2016 to 2019, the biggest number in more than a decade. (READ: Duterte's war on dissent) – with reports from JC Gotinga/Rappler.com

Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.

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