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BAGUIO, Philippines – More than a week after her release on bail from detention at the Camp Karingal custodial facility, Kara Lenina Taggaoa is preparing to return to the police facility, but on a happier note.
Taggaoa, the international officer of Kilusang Mayo Uno, told Rappler in a phone interview that she will celebrate her 25th birthday on Saturday, October 22, with the women inmates who comforted her when she was there.
“When the arresting officers read me my Miranda rights, I already knew I was going to jail, but it only fully hit me when I entered the custodial center, and my tears fell one after the other,” she said.
Quezon City Police District (QCPD) personnel arrested Taggaoa and Pasiklab Operators and Drivers Association president Larry Valbuena on October 11 in front of the Regional Trial Court for direct assault. Barely an hour before the arrest, the two were arraigned for robbery charges.
Police Master Sergeant Feliciano Evangelio of the QCPD had filed a complaint against Taggaoa and Valbuena for assaulting him and taking his gun, cellphone, and wallet with P5,000 cash and identification cards during a protest action against the Anti-Terrorism Law in July 2020.
Taggaoa recalled how the older detainees calmed her as she sobbed. Their stories and encouragement helped her get through the ordeal.
“They told me to treat them as my mothers inside detention. That is something I will not forget,” she said.
“As a simple celebration of my birthday, I would like to give the female detainees at the custodial facility of Camp Karingal a little help,” Taggaoa added
On Sunday, October 16, Kara launched a P25 donation drive for the female detainees in Camp Karingal. Donations in kind, particularly food items and toiletries, are also welcome. The donation drive will end on October 21.
Taggaoa said she only spent three hours with the inmates. But in those moments, she learned about their plight.
Her lawyers negotiated her transfer to a separate holding area after knowing that one inmate had recently tested positive for COVID-19.
The women at the custodial center also told her that one elderly inmate had died inside the facility from a respiratory disease in October.
“The health situation inside the facility is in a dire state. It is too crowded, without proper ventilation,” she said.
Around 70 to 80 individuals shared a restroom with only three cubicles and one electric stand fan. They are also short of basic hygiene needs and food supplies.
“There was not much space for another person in the custodial facility but they (inmates) made space for me when I arrived,” she said.
She learned from their stories that most of them are ordinary people facing “petty” crimes, like collecting jueteng (illegal number game) bets and qualified theft.
“In one day, I experienced how rotten the Philippine justice system is, getting arrested without a warrant for a trumped-up charge, and once detained, experienced the sorry state of detention facilities,” Taggaoa said.
Taggaoa does not recall “any instance of confronting police officers from the QCPD.”
She never received a subpoena from the Prosecutor’s Office for the complaints. They were just informed by a concerned individual about their warrant for the robbery, prompting them to prepare and post bail.
They learned from the documents of their robbery case that the Prosecutor’s Office also recommended the filing of direct assault against them. However, they got nothing when they went to court to ask for details of the second indictment.
“Even our release did not go smoothly. It was like [the police] were trying to find a reason to prolong our stay at the detention facility,” she said.
Taggaoa is the daughter of activists. Her father, Ronald, is president of the Union of Faculty and Employees of Saint Louis University. Her mother, Jennifer, a Limos tribe member from Pinukpuk, Kalinga, is an indigenous peoples’ rights advocate.
“You are stronger and courageous, my daughter Kara. Stronger than most, we are. You are a Kalinga and an Ilocano, both known for their fighting spirit, resistance, and resiliency,” Ronald said in a post.
He reminded her that “activists like you who questioned traditional practices and argued for better work arrangements and decent work” were the reasons for the benefits enjoyed by workers.
“Keep on, despite threats, intimidations, and harassments…. Padayon basang (Carry on, my daughter)!”
he said. – Rappler.com